Passenger and cruise vessel services between Bangladesh and India are expected to begin from March 29, opening new horizons for cross-border tourism, said officials.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) and an Indian operator aim to join hands in relaunching a route for travellers left unused for decades.
“We have planned to begin an experimental trip from Dhaka to Kolkata,” said BIWTC Director Commerce NSM Shahadat Ali.
MV Madhumati of the BIWTC will travel along Barishal, Mongla and the Sundarbans and whether passengers will be taken along will be decided through a meeting, he said.
Simultaneously, cruise vessel RV Bengal Ganga will set sail from Kolkata to enter Bangladesh on March 31 going through the Sundarbans, Khulna's Aungtihara and Mongla, said officials of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
The vessel is then scheduled to traverse Barishal, Chandpur, Sadarghat of Dhaka, Mawa, Sirajganj and Chilmari before entering India's northeastern state of Assam and stopping at Silghat near Guwahati, according to officials.
It is likely to reach its destination on April 12.
BIWTA Joint Director Saiful Islam said they would get to know in a few days the number of travellers who would be boarding RV Bengal Ganga for the trip.
Earlier, the Inland Waterways Authority of India informed the BIWTA about RV Bengal Ganga's willingness to start the cruise from Kolkata in March.
Later, the BIWTA held an inter-ministerial meeting to get all agencies involved, mainly customs and immigration, to facilitate passenger and cruise vessel services on inland routes between Bangladesh and India.
The developments come against the backdrop of a standard operating procedure being finalised by shipping ministries of the two countries in October last year for the movement of passenger and cruise vessels along coastal and designated inland routes.
A steamer-based water transport had been in service during the British rule, connecting East and West Bengal and northeastern India using the Assam-Goalanda-Narayanganj-Kolkata-Elahabad route.
The service came to a halt after the 1947 partition, according to Captain Showkat Sarder, a general manager (marine) of the BIWTC who studies routes of the subcontinent's steamer services.