Dhaka, Bangladesh (BBN)– The coastal shipping line between India and Bangladesh has facilitated trade between the two countries, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, said in Dhaka on Wednesday.
An agreement on coastal shipping line was signed between Bangladesh and India during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June last year. The first cargo ship under this agreement sailed from Chittagong to Vishakhapatnam in March this year.
“It has reduced the shipping time between India and Bangladesh from 30-40 days to 7-10 days and has the potential to emerge as an economical mode of transportation for the traders/business communities on both sides,” the envoy said while addressing at a seminar on ‘Enhancing Indo-Bangla Waterways Connectivity’, organised by India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) at a local hotel.
The Indian high commissioner said connectivity through the inland waterways and coastal shipping is an important part of our objective to create multi-modal transport links between India and Bangladesh.
Inland Waterways hold great potential for boosting bilateral trade and transit, and for relieving the pressure on our land ports, he added.
For facilitating trade and transit through the inland waterways, India and Bangladesh have a Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT) that has been operational since 1972.
The PIWTT was renewed for a period of five years with provision for auto renewal during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.
The PIWTT permits movement of goods over barges/vessels through the river systems of Bangladesh on eight specific routes between points in India and Bangladesh, and between points in India through Bangladesh.
According to the traffic statistics maintained by Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), the quantity of goods transported via the protocol routes has seen a more than twenty fold increase since 2001-02.
“We’ve also taken measures to facilitate the easy movement of seamen on the PIWTT routes. Crew members of Bangladesh vessels can avail of 72 hour shore leave without visa on the basis of valid passports and proof of employment,” Mr. Shringla noted.
Both sides are also working on finalizing the Standard Operating Procedure for operationalizing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India, which was signed during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh last year, he added.
Tofail Ahmed, commerce minister of Bangladesh, Ranjit Barthakur, chairman of North-East Council of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, IBCCI President Taskeen Ahmed and Tariq Ahmad Karim, former Bangladesh high commissioner to India, also spoke on the occasion.
Syed Munir Khasru, chairman of the Institute for Policy, Advocacy, and Governance, presented a keynote.