In a major initiative to boost up sub-regional connectivity, an Indian Inland Waterways Authority ship on Saturday headed towards Narayanganj river port in Bangladesh carrying cargo from Bhutan.
“This is for the first time, an Indian waterway is being used as a channel for transporting cargo between the two countries, using India for transit,” said Indian State Minister for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya while digitally flagging-off the ship-MV AAI- on Friday.
The first ship carrying 1000 MT of crushed stones from Bhutan started its journey from Dhubri river port in Assam and will travel to Narayanganj in Bangladesh, over river Brahmaputra and the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route, according to Indian shipping ministry officials.
Transport of cargo through this route will cut short travel time by 8 to 10 days, and reduce transportation cost by 30%, bringing down logistics costs. It will also be a more environment friendly mode of transport Speaking on this occasion, Mandaviya said the move would be beneficial to India as well as Bhutan and Bangladesh, and strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries.
“This new development will not only strengthen our ties with our neighbouring countries, but will also open up an alternate route to our North Eastern states, making it easier and cheaper to reach goods to these places from other parts of the country,” he added.
The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) Chairman Pravir Pandey said the stone aggregates were transported by trucks from Phuentsholing in Bhutan which is 160 KMs from IWAI’s Dhubri jetty in Assam. The ship will cover 600 km in six days to reach Narayanganj, he added.
Till now, Bhutan has been exporting significant quantity of stone aggregates to Bangladesh through the land route. The ship is carrying 1000 MT of stones – 70 trucks would be required to transport the same cargo by road.
“Transporting construction materials through waterways would help save about 10 days and transportation cost would likely to be 30% less, said an official of the Indian shipping ministry.
IWAI, which is responsible for developing and maintaining national waterways, has carried out dredging in Brahmaputra to maintain an assured draft in the navigation channel, officials said.