The first-ever container cargo from Kolkata via Bangladesh’s Chattogram port has reached Agartala, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on July 23, terming it a ‘historic milestone’ in the Indo-Bangladesh connectivity and economic partnership.
Bangladeshi ship MV Shejyoti carrying the consignment comprising 50 MT TMT steel bars and 53.22 MT pulses (in two TUEs) left the Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) at Kolkata (Syama Prasad Mookerjee) Port on July 16 and reached Chattogram (Chittagong) seaport on July 21.
From Chattogram international port, four Bangladeshi trucks carried the goods up to Akhaura Integrated Checkpost (ICP), adjacent to Agartala city, where the consignment was formally received by Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb. The consignment of steel bars was subsequently ferried to western Tripura’s Jirania while the pulses were transported to southern Assam’s Karimganj.
“Earlier there was a lone surface road (NH 8) linking Tripura with the rest of the country, occasionally causing economic crisis and huge escalation of prices. Now in just two years at least three waterways are being opened besides several surface and railway transport. The waterway distance from (Kolkata’s) Haldia port to Chattogram international port is 400 km and from Chattogram sea port (in southeast Bangladesh) to Akhaura ICP (along Agartala) is 200 km,” Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said.
Deb, who also holds the Industries and Commerce portfolio, said that both northeast India and Bangladesh would benefit economically if the transportation of goods via that country continued. “A new waterway between Tripura and Bangladesh would start soon and it would boost trade and numerous economic activities. The barge carrying goods from other parts of the country would come to Tripura via Bangladeshi waterways,” he added.
Union Minister of State for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya had flagged off the first trial container ship from Kolkata to Agartala through Chattogram Port of Bangladesh last week in a virtual ceremony. This has been done under the Agreement on use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for movement of India’s transit cargo through Bangladesh.
Mansukh Mandaviya had said that the route will open doors of new opportunities for both the countries. It will provide the alternative and shorter route to connect the North East Region through Bangladesh. “This is a historic move to utilise Chattogram and Mongla Port for movement of India’s transit cargo. It will be a new chapter in India-Bangladesh maritime relations,” he added.
The trial runs highlight the efforts that both sides have undertaken to strengthen the connectivity between Bangladesh and the North Eastern states of India, as per the understanding reached between the two countries at the highest level, during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in October 2019, when the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India, were concluded. This movement further strengthens long standing partnership between India and Bangladesh.
It will reduce distance and time taken in transportation of goods for India and is a win-win for both the economies. Job creation, investment in the logistical sector, enhanced business services and revenue generation are advantages that will accrue to Bangladesh. Bangladeshi vessels and trucks will be utilised to move the Indian cargo.
India and Bangladesh have enhanced cooperation in shipping and inland water trade in the recent years. Under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, in addition to the six existing Ports of Call, five more in each country have been added recently.
Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das and Bangladesh Shipping Ministry Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury signed the “Second Addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade” in Dhaka on May 20, increasing the number of new waterways.
Dredging of inland waterway routes is ongoing under an MoU signed on June 2015 and an agreement on October 2018 by the two countries on development of fairway in selected stretches of Bangladesh waterways with the Government of India bearing 80% of the project expenditure and the balance being borne by the Government of Bangladesh. Cruise services have also commenced between the two countries promoting tourism and people to people contacts.