India, Bangladesh sign agreements for enhancing waterways connectivity; Bangladesh opens Chattogram and Mongla Ports

North-Eastern States of India to use Chattogram sea port and Mongla river ports in Bangladesh. This will restore pre-partition logistics arrangements, when the North-East region was served by the then East Bengal ports.

Oct 26, 2018 09:40 IST
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India and Bangladesh on October 25, 2018 signed several milestone agreements for enhancing inland and coastal waterways connectivity for trade and cruise movements. Bangladesh agreed to open its Chattogram and Mongla ports for trade with India.

The decisions were taken during the 19th Standing Committee meeting under ‘Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade’ (PIWTT) held at New Delhi.

New Ports of Call

An addendum to ‘Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade’ (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh has been signed for inclusion of Dhubriin India and Pangaonin Bangladesh as new Ports of Call.  

Both the countries signed an agreement to use Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India.

The two sides also agreed to consider inclusion of Rupnarayan River (National Waterway-86) from Geonkhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghatin West Bengal as new Port of Call. Chilmari was agreed to as a port of call in Bangladesh.

The new arrangement will facilitate movement of flyash, cement, construction materials etc from India to Bangladesh through Inland Water Transport (IWT) on Rupnarayan River.

Both sides agreed to declare Badarpur on river Barak (NW 16) as an Extended Port of Call of Karimganj in Assam and Ghorasal of Ashuganj in Bangladesh on reciprocal basis.  

The Indian side proposed for extension of the protocol routes from Kolkata upto Silchar in Assam. Currently 3.5 MMT cargo is transported on protocol routes through inland waterways which is expected to increase substantially after the declaration of additional Ports of Call and extension of protocol routes.

The North Eastern states would get connected to directly to the ports of Kolkata and Haldia in India and Mongla in Bangladesh through waterways which would facilitate movement EXIM cargo and would also reduce the logistic costs.

All these agreements will facilitate easier movement of goods and passengers between the two countries, giving an impetus to trade and tourism.

Standard Operating Procedure for movement of passenger and cruise services

  • Both the sides have also finalised the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for movement of passengers and cruise vessels on Inland Protocol route and coastal shipping routes.
  • These river cruise services are likely to commence between Kolkata – Dhaka - Guwahati – Jorhat and back.

Joint Committees and Groups to be constituted

- It was also agreed that a Joint Technical Committee will explore the technical feasibility of operationalisation of Dhulian-Rajshahi protocol route upto Aricha and the reconstruction and opening up of Jangipur navigational lock on river Bhagirathi subject to the provisions of the Treaty between India and Bangladesh on Sharing of Ganga Waters at Farakka in 1996.

This move has the potential to reduce the distance to Assam by more than 450 kms on the protocol routes.

- A Joint Monitoring Committee has also been constituted for overall monitoring of the dredging works of Ashuganj-Zakiganj and Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretches of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route in Bangladesh that will be engaged with 80 percent financial contribution from India and rest by Bangladesh.

Other developments

To bring about significant reduction in logistics cost and faster delivery of Bangladesh export cargo, India proposed permitting ‘Third country’ EXIM Trade under Coastal Shipping Agreement and PIWTT by allowing transhipment through ports on the East Cost of India.Bangladesh agreed to hold stakeholder consultations and revert on the matter.

Both sides have also agreed for development of Jogighopa as a hub or terminal for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan and notifying Munsiganj River terminal by Bangladesh Customs for routing third party Exim cargo through Kolkata Port.

Both the sides discussed to make Nakugaon Land Port in Bangladesh and Dalu ICP (India) operational and to connect Gelephu (Bhutan) as tripartite cross-border route.

Inclusion of Dhamra Port, V.O. Chidambaranar Port (formerly Tuticorin Port) and Kamarajar Port under Coastal Shipping Agreement was also deliberated upon.

Key takeaways

  • North-Eastern States of India to use Chattogram sea port and Mongla river ports in Bangladesh. This will restore pre-partition logistics arrangements, when the North-East was served by the then East Bengal ports.
  • The deal will particularly help Tripura, which is nearly 2000 km away from Kolkata but a few hundred km from the Chattogram port.
  • A cruise service will be launched between Kolkata and Dhaka from March 2019. The cruise operator, Exotic Heritage Group, has already booked the service for five years. Exotic heritage group already runs cruises on River Ganga.
  • Setting up of a multi-modal transshipment hub at Jogighopa in Assam for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan. Goods from Bhutan and the North-East can take the river route to Bangladesh and vice-versa through Jogighopa.

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