Under the existing Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) five new ports of call, two extended ports of call and two Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) water routes have been added to boost bilateral trade.
Bangladesh's Shipping Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das signed the deal on behalf their respective sides held at the shipping ministry on Wednesday.
Insiders said the move would help India carry goods to its north eastern states and it will save the neighbouring country money and time.
The newly added five ports of call are: Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Chilmari, Daudkandi and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh and Dhulian, Maia, Kolaghat, Sonamura and Jogigopha in India.
Under the existing protocol, there were 12 ports of call between the two countries. These are: Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla, Sirajganj, Ashuganj and Pangaon in Bangladesh and Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj, Pandu, Shilghat and Dhubri in India.
The two extended ports of call are Ghorashal under Narayanganj and Muktarpur under Pangaon port of call in Bangladesh and Tribeni (Bendel) under Kolkata and Karimganj under Badarpur port of call in India.
Furthermore, the two new IBP water routes Sonamura- Daudkandi- Sonamura, have been added to the existing eight routes, bringing the number to 10.
A second addition to the PIWTT was required in view of the decision taken at the Shipping Secretary level meeting of both the countries on 24-25 October 2017 in New Delhi and in December 2019 in Dhaka and the meeting of the Standing Committee of PIWTT regarding a number of new ports of call, new protocol route addition, hydrographic surveys and dredging.
Earlier, on October 25, 2018, the first addition of PIWTT was signed. There, Pangaon in Bangladesh and Dhubri in India were included as ports of call.
The existing Inland Water Transit and Trade Agreement between Bangladesh and India has been renewed since its signing in 1972. When the protocol expired on March 31, 2015, the PIWT was re-signed on June 6, 2015
Through Bangladeshi ships in 2019-119, 22 lakh 86 thousand 852 metric tons of goods were transported in 2,685 trips and 78 thousand 794 metric tons in 59 trips by Indian ships using the IBP water routes.
Till March 2020, 22 lakh 23 thousand 461 metric tons of goods have been transported through 2 thousand 591 trips on Bangladeshi ships and 88 thousand 566 metric tons through 54 trips through Indian ships.
Among others, Additional Secretaries of the Ministry, BIWTA Chairman ComdrGolamSadek and Foreign Ministry officials were also present on the occasion.
A shipping ministry official said India was supposed to start the trial run for transporting goods between its northeastern states and other parts using Bangladesh's Chattogram and Mongla ports in January. But it was postponed due to the COVID 19.
Goods from Kolkata would be transported to Chattogram port through the sea route under the trial. Later, those would be carried to the Indian state of Tripura by road via Akhaura land port in Bangladesh, said the official said.