In a first ever movement of its kind, an Indian cargo ship carrying stone aggregates from Bhutan for Bangladesh that set sail from Dhubri, India arrived at Narayanganj on 16 July. An inaugural ceremony was held at Narayanganj on 18 July in which High Commissioner of India, H.E. Smt. Riva Ganguly Das, Ambassador of Bhutan, H.E. Mr. Sonam T. Rabgye along with the Vice Chairman of Basundhara Group, Mr. Safwan Sobhan received the first ever consignment through the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol route.
The ship, MV AAI of the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) was digitally flagged off by Shri Mansukh Mandaviya, Indian Minister of State for Shipping on 12 July. The ship then sailed from Dhubri in Assam and travelled to Narayanganj in Bangladesh, over the river Brahmaputra. Dhubri was declared a port of call in October 2018. This is the first time an Indian waterway is being used as a channel for transport of cargo between the two countries, using India for transit.
The stone aggregates were transported by trucks from Phuentsholing in Bhutan which is 160 KMs from IWAI’s Dhubri jetty in Assam. 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 – over 50 trucks would be required to transport the same cargo by road.
Minister of State for Shipping, Shri Mandaviya said that the development is a historic one, taking ahead the vision of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to promote cargo transportation through inland waterways. He said that the move will be beneficial to India, Bhutan and Bangladesh, and that it will strengthen relations between the neighboring countries. He said 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. Shri Mandaviya further said that this will also open up an alternate route to India’s North Eastern states, making it easier and cheaper to reach goods to these places from other parts of the country.
Chairman of IWAI informed that capital dredging has been carried out to maintain an assured draft in the navigation channel. Maintenance dredging will be carried out as required. The Indian Government is also taking various initiatives to increase the use of Inland Waterways and Coastal Shipping for greater cargo shipment. Dredging of the Ashuganj-Jakiganj route is also underway, under the India-Bangladesh Fairway Development project.