An Indian container ship sets off from West Bengal today to see if it is technically and commercially viable to establish a trade route up to Guwahati traversing through Bangladesh.
Carrying 53 tonnes of edible oil, petrochemicals and beverages, the vessel hopes to make the 1,425-kilometre trip from Haldia to Pandu in 12 to 15 days.
MV Maheshwari will be using routes established under an India-Bangladesh protocol connecting the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers through Bangladesh, according to a statement of the Indian shipping ministry.
The Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade allows mutually beneficial movement of goods and vessels of both countries.
Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna will flag off the vessel and a series of pilot movements are planned, the Indian ministry added.
The route in discussion aims at providing an alternative to transporting raw materials and finished goods for industrial development of India’s north eastern region.
One part of the route is India’s National Waterway-1 (Ganga-Bhagirathi-Hooghly river system), over which goods transport increased from 5.48 million tonnes in 2017-18 to 6.79 million tonnes in 2018-19.
About 3.15 million tonnes of it comprise export-import trade between India and Bangladesh.
As part of the protocol routes, two stretches of waterways in Bangladesh, one from Sirajganj to Daikhawa and another from Ashuganj to Zakiganj, will be maintained at requisite depth.
Of the Rs 305.84 crore maintenance cost, India will bear 80 percent while Bangladesh the rest.
Other attempts at utilising the waterways include agreements on declaring additional ports of call at Kolaghat, Dhulian, Maia and Sonamura in India and Chilmari, Rajshahi, Sultanganj and Daudkandi in Bangladesh.
The countries also agreed on Badarpur as an extended port of call of Karimganj (India) and Ghorasal in Bangladesh, Tribeni in India and Muktarpur of Pangaon in Bangladesh.
Plans have been taken to extend the Rajshahi-Godagari-Dhulian stretch up to Aricha and the Daudkandi-Sonamura one up to the Gumti river. During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s official visit to New Delhi in October, the two countries signed a standard operation procedure on movement of goods to and from India through Chattogram and Mongla ports.
The proximity of these two ports is expected to reduce logistics cost and improve trade competitiveness of the north eastern Indian states.