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Protocol on inland water transit & trade between India & Bangladesh boosted

India and Bangladesh have a long standing and time-tested Protocol on Transit and Trade through inland waterways of both countries. This Protocol, first signed in 1972, was last renewed in 2015 for five years with a provision for its automatic renewal for a further period of five years giving long-term assurance to various stakeholders

The Standing Committee on the Protocol and the Shipping Secretary level talks are the institutional arrangements between the two countries to discuss and make the Protocol more effective. During the discussions between India and Bangladesh at these meetings held in October 2018 in New Delhi and in December 2019 in Dhaka, key decisions were taken on the extension of protocol routes, inclusion of new routes and declaration of new ports of call to facilitate trade between the two countries. These decisions have been made effective with the signing of the 2nd Addendum to the Protocol on Wednesday, informed a release.

Routes: The number of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes is being increased from 8 to 10 and new locations are also added to the existing routes:

* Inclusion of Sonamura- Daudkhandi stretch of Gumti river (93 km) as IBP route No. 9 & 10 in the Protocol will improve the connectivity of Tripura and adjoining states with Indian and Bangladesh`s economic centres and will help the hinterland of both the countries. This route shall be connecting all existing IBP routes from 1 to 8.

* The operationalisation of Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi routes and their extension up to Aricha (270 km) will help the augmentation of infrastructure in Bangladesh as it would reduce the transportation cost of stone chips/aggregate to the northern part of Bangladesh through this route. It will also decongest the Land Custom Stations on both sides.

* In Routes (1) & (2) [Kolkata-Shilghat-Kolkata] as well as in Routes (3) & (4) [Kolkata-Karimganj-Kolkata], Kolaghat in India has been added.

* Routes (3) & (4) [Kolkata-Karimganj-Kolkata] and Routes (7) & (8) [Karimganj-Shilghat-Karimganj] have been extended up to Badarpur in India. In these routes, Ghorasal in Bangladesh has also been added.

Ports of Call: Presently, there are six ports of call each in India and Bangladesh under the Protocol. Five more ports of call and two more extended ports of call have been added, increasing the number to eleven ports of call and two extended ports of call in each country.

Inclusion of Jogigopha in India and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh as new ports of call will provide connectivity to Meghalaya, Assam and Bhutan. Jogigopha also becomes important since a Multimodal Logistics Park is proposed to be established there. The new ports of call would enable the loading and unloading of cargo transported on the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and provide stimulus to the economic development of the new locations and their hinterland.

Movement on shallow draught mechanised vessels: As a path-breaking development, both sides have agreed to introduce trade between Chilmari (Bangladesh) and Dhubri (India) through the use of shallow draught mechanised vessels, provided these are registered under Inland Shipping Ordinance 1976 of Bangladesh or Inland Vessels Act, 1917 of India as per provisions of Article 1.3 of the Protocol and conform to safety requirements. This initiative will allow export of stone chips and other Bhutanese and North East cargo to Bangladesh and easy access for the traders to the hinterland of Bangladesh, enhancing the local economy in Bangladesh and the lower Assam region of India.

New opportunities in cargo movement: Under this Protocol, inland vessels of both countries can ply on the designated protocol route and dock at ports of call in each country notified for loading/unloading of cargo. There has been significant improvement in the movement of cargo vessels in an organised manner on the Protocol route carrying both transit cargo to North East (NE) region of India and vice-versa, and export cargo to Bangladesh. The Indian transit cargo is mainly coal, fly ash, POL and ODC for power projects in the NE region. The other potential cargo for movement is fertilisers, cement, foodgrains, agricultural products, containerised cargo, etc. Export cargo from India to Bangladesh is mainly fly ash, which is to the tune of 30 lakh MT per annum. Around 638 inland vessels (including 600 Bangladeshi flag vessels) have completed with approximately 4,000 loaded voyages annually.

It is expected that these modifications to the Protocol will further facilitate trade between two countries with improved reliability and cost-effectiveness.

The 2nd Addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade was signed in Dhaka on May 20, 2020 by the High Commissioner of India in Bangladesh on behalf of India, and by the Secretary (Shipping) on behalf of Bangladesh, the release added.


Source: Exim News Service: New Delhi, May 21


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