India and Bangladesh have added five more “ports of call” on either side of the two countries and increased the protocol (water) routes from 8 to 10.
The port of call and protocol routes have been increased to boost trade, economic activity and connectivity between the two countries.
“These additions to the protocol will facilitate bilateral trade with improved reliability and cost effectiveness for the business community and the people of both the countries,” said an official statement.
According to the statement, the extension of protocol routes, inclusion of new routes and declaration of new “ports of call” would facilitate trade.
The two countries signed the Second Addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, in Dhaka on Wednesday.
The Addendum was signed by Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das and Bangladesh Shipping Ministry Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury.
There are six “ports of call” each in India and Bangladesh. The new five “ports of call” on the Indian side are Dhulian, Maia, Kolaghat, Sonamura and Jogigopha and on the Bangladesh side Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Chilmari, Daudkandi and Bahadurabad.
Two more extended ”ports of call” — Tribeli (Bandel) and Badarpur in India and Ghorasal and Muktarpur in Bangladesh — have been added.
“Connectivity provided by the existing and the new protocol routes is all the more pertinent in the Covid-19 scenario. They will provide economical, faster, safer and greener mode of transport for trade and business,” the statement added.
The new agreement will help improve movement of cargo vessels in an organised manner on the protocol routes.
The Indian transit cargo is mainly coal, fly-ash, POL and heavy machineries for power projects in the northeast. The other likely cargo is fertilizers, cement, grain, farm products and containers.
The export cargo from India to Bangladesh is mainly fly-ash (around 30 lakh tonnes per annum). Around 638 inland vessels (including 600 Bangladeshi flag vessels) do 4,000 loaded voyages annually.
Both the countries have also agreed to introduce trade between Chilmari (Bangladesh) and Dhubri (Assam, India) through the use of shallow draft mechanised vessels.
It will allow export of stone chips and other Bhutanese and Northeast cargo and easy access for traders to the hinterland of Bangladesh, enhancing the local economy in Bangladesh and the lower Assam region.
Inclusion of Jogigopha (India) and Bahadurabad (Bangladesh) as new “port of call” will provide connectivity to Meghalaya, Assam and Bhutan.
Jogigopha (in western Assam) also becomes important as a multi-modal logistics park is on cards there.
The new “ports of call” will enable loading and unloading of cargo transported on the India-Bangladesh Protocol Route and stimulate economic development of new locations and their hinterland.
Inclusion of Sonamura (Tripura)-Daudkhandi (Bangladesh) stretch of the Gumti river (93 km) as IBP route number 9 and 10 in the protocol will improve connectivity of Tripura and adjoining northeastern states with India and Bangladesh’s economic centres and will help the hinterland of both the countries.
Before signing of the Second Addendum, Indian and Bangladesh officials had meetings in October 2018 in New Delhi and in December 2019 in Dhaka and finalised extension of protocol routes, inclusion of new routes and declaration of new “ports of call”.
According to the statement, this protocol, first signed in 1972 soon after independence of Bangladesh, is a reflection of shared history, trusted friendship and mutually beneficial partnership.
It was last renewed in 2015 for five years with a provision of automatic renewal for the next five years, giving long-term assurance to stakeholders.