Trial run of Indian ships using Bangladeshi ports to begin in January

India will soon have access to Bangladeshi ports for movements of its cargo ships to and from India. The first trial-run in this regard will take place in January next year.

The decision, considered a new phase in connectivity between the two countries, was announced by shipping secretary Md. Abdus Samad and his Indian counterpart Gopal Krishna following the shipping secretary-level talks held at a city hotel yesterday.

Bangladesh expects that such connectivity between the countries will open up greater economic opportunities, strengthen infrastructure and boost business.

“We are yet to decide the date of the first trial run, but it is likely to be in January next year. A container cargo is likely to operate either through Chittagong Port or Mongla Port to the Indian state of Tripura through the Agartala and Akhaura river routes,” said Abdus Samad.

“We will observe the problems in the first trial, if there are any, and will solve them before the second trial gets underway,” he added.

Samad noted that the move would also help Bangladesh benefit from levies earned from the Indian ship movements and at the same time lead to a greater movement of its own inland water vessels.

In his remarks, Gopal Sri Krishna, shipping secretary of the government of India, said, “The movement of cargo vessels can develop the economy of Bangladesh as well as reduce logistics costs for India.”

“The movement of vessels of both nations is expected to be of mutual benefit in terms of boosting cargo commerce as well as employment,” he added.

Bangladesh and India signed an agreement on 25 October 2018 providing facilities to India for the use of the Chittagong and Mongla ports to and from its territory.

Earlier, the cabinet approved the agreement enabling New Delhi to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports for the movement of goods.

Under the terms of the agreement, India will be permitted to use the Chittagong and Mongla ports to transport goods to its north-eastern states bordering Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh shipping secretary said: “Customs fees are not applicable as it is a bilateral agreement between two countries. But India will pay duties and taxes as per tariff schedule of Bangladesh for using its ports. It will also pay fees for using Bangladeshi roads in line with the policy of the Bangladesh Road and Highways Division.”

However, he said, the two sides had not discussed the fees issue at the meeting.

Seven routes were suggested for the movement of goods and passenger vessels between the two countries. Four of the routes suggested are Chittagong Port or Mongla Port to Agartala via Akhaura; Chittagong or Mongla port to Dawki via Tamabil; Chittagong or Mongla port to Sutarkandi via Sheola; and Chittagong or Mongla to Bibekbazar via Simantapur.

Under the agreement, Bangladeshi vehicles and vessels will be permitted to carry the goods inside Bangladesh.

Abdus Samad stated that the authorities would use tracking systems like e-locks to identify cargo vessels. “We have also proposed installing QR codes into the ID cards of the crew and staff of the vessels,” he said.

“Security issues are usually dealt with by the home ministries of the two countries. So we have decided to submit a proposal separately to the home ministries of both countries to allow the installation of the QR code and e-lock system,” said Abdus Samad.

He also said that a technical committee would examine the Rajshahi-Pakshi river route for dredging as the route is vital for communications with the north-eastern states of India.

“We have already dredged the Bangladesh part of the Atrai River, which connects India through Naogaon, Dinajpur and Panchagarh. Now we have requested India to dredge its part of the river, which is a 42km stretch,” said Samad.

“Zogigopa port of India and Bahadurabad port of Bangladesh have been declared as ports of call, and Narayanganj’s Pangaon port will become a transshipment port,” he added.

He stated that a feasibility study would be conducted over the Ichhamoti River in Satkhira in order to include it in the inland water transit and trade protocol to boost connectivity.

Bangladesh and Indian cruise passengers to get on-arrival visa

Passengers travelling on cruise ships to India and Bangladesh will get on-arrival visas at the ports.

Referring to the decision, shipping secretary Abdus Samad said: “We have agreed to issue on-arrival visas for cruise passengers as they are mostly tourists.

“We will submit a proposal to the home ministries of the two countries to approve the decision of on-arrival visas,” said Samad.

It may be recalled that operations of cruise ships from Narayanganj to Kolkata began on a trial basis in March this year.