India Bangladesh Operationalise Inland Water Trade Agreement
Shri Gopal Krishna, Secretary (Shipping) flagged off the inland vessel MV Maheshwari carrying 53 TEUs (containers) of petrochemicals, edible oil and beverage etc. The 12-15 days voyage will be an integrated IWT movement via National Waterway-1 (river Ganga), NW-97 (Sunderbans), Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route and NW-2 (river Brahmaputra).
This is the first ever containerised cargo movement on this Inland Water Transport (IWT) route. The 1425 km long movement is expected to establish the technical and commercial viability of IWT mode using these multiple waterways even as a series of pilot movements are planned on the stretch. The latest IWT movement is aimed at providing a fillip to North East Region’s industrial development by opening up an alternate route for transportation of raw material and finished goods.
A press information bureau release indicated that 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 countries. The IBP route extends from Kolkata (India) on NW-1 to Silghat (Assam) on NW-2 (River Brahmaputra) and Karimganj (Assam) on NW-16 (River Barak).
Two stretches of Bangladesh inland waterways viz. Sirajganj–Daikhawa&Ashuganj-Zakiganj on the IBP route are being developed at a total cost of Rs 305.84 Cr. on 80:20 cost sharing basis (80% being borne by India & 20% by Bangladesh). The development of these two stretches is expected to provide seamless navigation to and from North East India through waterways via the IBP route. 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 under PIWT&T at Kolaghat, Dhulian, Maia, Sonamura in India, and Chilmari, Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Daukhandi in Bangladesh. Both countries have also agreed on the following:-
i. Badarpur as an extended port of call of Karimganj (Assam, India) and Ghorasal of Ashuganj in Bangladesh.
ii. Tribeni as an extended port of call of Kolkata, India and Muktarpur of Pangaon in Bangladesh.
iii. Protocol route no.5 & 6 i.e. Rajshahi-Godagari- Dhulian to be extended uptoAricha (Bangladesh).
iv. Inclusion of Daudkhandi-Sonamura stretch on Gumti river as new route no. 9 & 10.
An SOP to facilitate the movement of goods to and from India through Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh has been signed by the two countries on 5th October 2019.
Article VIII of the Trade Agreement entered into between the Government of the Republic of India and the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh on June, 6, 2015 led to an agreement to make mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways for commerce between the two countries and for passage of goods between two places in one country and to third countries through the territory of the other under the terms mutually agreed upon.
In such cases, fees and charges, if leviable as per international agreements, conventions or practices were to be applied and transit guarantee regime established through mutual consultations.
For inter-country trade, certain ports of call have been designated in each country. These Ports of call generally act as an intermediate stops for a ship on its scheduled journey for unloading and loading of cargo or taking on supplies or fuel and maintenance and refurbishing is carried out. The test run is now being carried out which may provide a new route for speedy transit to the North East.