First Indian ship to pass thru BD

Using the Bangladesh territory under a bilateral agreement, an Indian ship carrying edible oil, petrochemicals and beverage will embark on a 1425km voyage along inland multiple waterways from Haldia in West Bengal to the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) terminal at Pandu in Guwahati on Monday.

This would mark the first-ever movement of container cargo on the Brahmaputra which is India’s National Waterway -2, the Indian Shipping Ministry said on Sunday. Gopal Krishna, India’s Shipping Secretary, will flag off the vessel MV Maheshwari carrying 53 tonnes of the cargo in its 12-15 days voyage using National Waterway-1 (river Ganga), National Waterway-97 (Sunderbans), India-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and the Brahmaputra.

The movement of the vessel on this route is expected to establish the technical and commercial viability of conducting trade using multiple waterways. A series of pilot movements are planned on the stretch, the Ministry said in a statement. The latest inland waterway trade movement is aimed at providing a fillip to (India’s) North East Region’s industrial development by opening up an alternate route for transportation of raw material and finished goods.

Taking forward Indian government's vision of promoting inland waterway trade, the first consignment of containerized cargo on National Waterway-1 (Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system) was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 12 last year when he dedicated to the nation the multi-modal terminal in his parliamentary constituency Varanasi.

Inland waterway trade on National Waterway-1 has witnessed a healthy growth with the augmentation of navigation capacity of the Ganga from 5.48 million tonnes of goods in 2017-18 to 6.79 million tonnes in 2018-19. Out of the total traffic of 6.79 million tonnes on this route, about 3.15 million tonnes is the export-import trade between India and Bangladesh using the Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes.

The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh allows mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways for movement of goods between the two countries by vessels of both the countries. The India-Bangladesh Protocol route extends from Kolkata on National Waterway-1 to Silghat in Assam on National Waterway-2 (river Brahmaputra) and Karimganj in Assam on National Waterway-16 (river Barak).

Two stretches of Bangladesh inland waterways--Sirajganj–Daikhawa and Ashuganj-Zakiganj on the India-Bangladesh Protocol route are being developed at a total cost of Rs 305.84 crore on 80:20 cost- sharing basis (80% being borne by India and 20% by Bangladesh). The development of these two stretches is expected to provide seamless navigation to and from North East India through the waterways in Bangladesh.

The contracts for dredging on the two stretches have been awarded for achieving and maintaining requisite depth . In addition to the above, India and Bangladesh have taken major steps to enhance utilization of waterways in the recent past. These include agreement on declaration of additional ports of call at Kolaghat, Dhulian, Maia and Sonamura in India and Chilmari, Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Daudkandi in Bangladesh.

The two countries have also agreed on Badarpur as an extended port of call of Karimganj (India) and Ghorasal in Bangladesh, Tribeni in India and Muktarpur of Pangaon in Bangladesh.Bangladesh and India also agreed to extend waterway route no 5 and 6 i.e. Rajshahi-Godagari-Dhulian up to Aricha (Bangladesh) and include Daudkandi-Sonamura stretch on Gumti river as new route no. 9 and 10.

During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s official visit to New Delhi in October, the two countries signed a Standard Operation Procedure to facilitate the movement of goods to and from India through Chattogram and Mongla Ports. The proximity of these two ports will reduce logistics cost and improve trade competitiveness of North East Indian states.