India and Bangladesh on Wednesday signed an agreement to operationalise five new ports of call and two new protocol routes to boost the bilateral trade.
High Commissioner of India in Bangladesh, Riva Ganguly Das, and Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Mohammad Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury signed the 2nd Addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade in Dhaka on Wednesday, a release said.
India and Bangladesh during Standing Committee on the Protocol and Shipping Secretary-level talks in October 2018 and December 2019 had decided to extend protocol routes, include new routes and increase ports of call.
"These decisions have been made effective with the signing of 2nd Addendum to the Protocol today...The number of Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes are being increased from 8 to 10 and new locations are also added to the existing routes," it said.
Ports of call are intermediate stops for a ship on its scheduled journey for taking on supplies or fuel.
With the signing of the pact, the ports of call between India and Bangladesh has increased to 11 from six earlier while two more extended ports of call have been added.
"Inclusion of Jogigopha in India and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh as new Port 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 IBP Route and provide a stimulus to the economic development of the new locations and their hinterland," the release said.
The new routes included are Sonamura- Daudkhandi stretch of Gumti river (93 Km) as IBP (Indo Bangladesh Protocol) route No. 9 & 10 to improve the connectivity of Tripura and adjoining States with Indian and Bangladesh's economic centres and will help the hinterland of both the countries, the release said adding this route shall be connecting all existing IBP routes from 1 to 8.
As a path-breaking development, both sides have agreed to introduce trade between Chilmari (Bangladesh) and Dhubri (India) through the use of shallow draft mechanized vessels, provided these are registered under Inland Shipping Ordinance 1976 of Bangladesh or Inland Vessels Act, 1917 of India as per provisions 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.
The government said under this Protocol, Inland vessels of both the 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 organized manner on the Protocol route carrying both the transit cargo to North East(NE) region of India and vice-versa and export-cargo to Bangladesh, the statement said adding the Indian transit cargo is mainly coal, fly-ash and POL etc for power projects in NE region.
The other potential cargo for movement is fertilizers, cement, food grains, agricultural products, containerized cargo etc.
The export cargo from India to Bangladesh is mainly fly-ash which is to the tune of 30 lakhs tonne per annum. Around 638 inland vessels (including 600 Bangladeshi flag vessels) completed with approximately 4000 loaded voyages annually.
Both the nations have a long standing and time-tested Protocol on Transit and Trade through inland waterways, first signed in 1972 and 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.
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