Bangladesh, India to ink pact today to allow N-E States use Chittagong port

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Oct 24, 2018

The Shipping Secretary-level meeting between India and Bangladesh in New Delhi on Thursday will be historic for many reasons.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Shipping, the two countries will ink a deal to allow North-Eastern States access to Bangladeshi ports, pave way for cruise movement between Kolkata and Dhaka and open multi-modal trade opportunities between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Earlier this month, the Bangladeshi Cabinet approved a draft agreement to allow North-Eastern States of India to use Chittagong sea port and Mongla river ports in Bangladesh. This will restore pre-partition logistics arrangements, when the North-East was served by the then East Bengal ports.

The deal will particularly help Tripura, which is nearly 2,000 km away from Kolkata via the Chicken’s Neck but a few hundred km from the Chittagong port.

The two secretaries will also finalise the standard operating procedure for passenger and cruise movement on the protocol river routes and coastal shipping, which will open a vista of high value tourism opportunity between the two nations.

The proposal first came from the Kolkata-based luxury cruise operator, Vivada Cruises, which felt there was huge demand from foreign tourists to travel down the lazy river cutting through the mangrove forests of the Sunderbans, which was divided between the two nations during the Partition.

The current river transport protocol which deals with cargo movement was inadequate to serve the needs as well as ensure the security of tourists.

For Bangladesh, which has in the past failed to tap its tourism potential, the move will be a big gain. The move will also come as a major boost to West Bengal’s initiative to attract tourists.

Transshipment hub

Thursday’s meeting will also pave way for India setting up a multi-modal transshipment hub at Jogighopa in Assam which is connected by rail, road and river. Goods from Bhutan and the North-East can take the river route to Bangladesh and vice-versa through Jogighopa.

On Wednesday, the two sides met at the 19th edition of the Standing Committee meeting and took a host of decisions to boost the river transport.

India invited Bangladesh to use its east coast ports — including Kolkata — for third country exim cargo. The move has potential to reduce the coastal shipping rates between the two nations, drastically.

“Bangladesh agreed to hold stakeholders meeting and revert on the matter,” the press release said.

Published on October 24, 2018
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