NEW DELHI, Oct 24 - India and Bangladesh on Wednesday agreed to introduce river cruise services between Kolkata-Dhaka and Guwahati-Jorhat and back.
The two countries also agreed to declare Badarpur on Barak river (National Waterway 16) as an extended port of call of Karimganj and Ghorasal of Ashuganj in Bangladesh on reciprocal basis. India also called for extension of the protocol routes from Kolkata up to Silchar in Assam.
Both sides agreed for development of Jogighopa as a transshipment hub for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan, and notifying of Munsiganj river terminal by Bangladesh Customs for routing third party exim cargo through Kolkata port.
India and Bangladesh held the 19th edition of the standing committee meeting under the �Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade� (PIWTT) here today. The meeting was attended by official level delegations from both sides that included representatives of ministries of shipping, external affairs, home, finance, DoNER and the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
Bangladesh was represented by officials belonging to the country�s Ministry of Shipping, Board of Revenue, DG (Shipping) and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
The discussions ranged over various issues pertaining to the protocol arrangements and improvement of inland water transport between the two countries, official sources said.
The two sides agreed to consider inclusion of Rupnarayan river (NW-86) from Geonkhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghat as a new port of call. Chilmari was agreed to as a port of call in Bangladesh. The new arrangement will facilitate movement of fly ash, cement, construction materials, etc., from India to Bangladesh through IWT on Rupnarayan river.
In another critical understanding reached at between the two countries, the standard operating procedure (SOP) for movement of passengers and cruise vessels on the inland protocol routes and coastal shipping routes has been finalised.
It was also agreed that a joint technical committee will explore the feasibility of operationalisation of the Dhulian-Rajshahi protocol route up to Aricha and the reconstruction and opening up of Jangipur navigational lock on Bhagirathi river subject to the provisions of the treaty between India and Bangladesh on sharing of Ganga waters at Farakka, 1996. This move has the potential to reduce the distance to Assam by more than 450 km on the protocol routes.
It was also decided that a project management consultant for supervision and monitoring of dredging of the Ashuganj-Zakiganj and Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretches of the Indo-Bangladesh protocol route in Bangladesh will be engaged with 80 per cent financial contribution from India and rest by Bangladesh. A joint monitoring committee has also been constituted for overall monitoring of the dredging works.
To bring about significant reduction in logistics cost and faster delivery of Bangladesh export cargo, the Indian side raised the point of permitting �third country� exim trade under the Coastal Shipping Agreement and PIWTT by allowing transhipment through ports on the east coast of India. Bangladesh agreed to hold consultations with stakeholders and revert on the matter.
The two sides will also be holding shipping secretary level talks on Thursday here wherein agreements for the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports for movement of goods from India, addendum to PIWTT and SOP on passenger and cruise movement on the protocol and coastal shipping routes are expected to be signed.