Cargo movement increases on waterways

The movement of goods through the waterways between Bangladesh and India has reached a new high in the fiscal year 2021-22 as local entrepreneurs, especially cement workers, have found the waterways convenient to bring in their materials. raw materials, mainly fly ash, from the neighboring country.

In FY 2021-22, ships carried 20% more cargo at 47.4 lakh tonnes, the highest since FY 2001-02, compared to a year ago, data shows. of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).

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In other words, the movement of cargo on the river routes of Bangladesh and India has almost doubled in four years, from 24 lakh tons in the financial year 2018-19 thanks to the increase in production. of cement to meet an increase in demand for the construction of public mega projects and private buildings.

During the last financial year, Bangladeshi ships carried 42.18 lakh tons while Indian ships carried 5.22 lakh tons.

This is the third consecutive year that the movement of cargo on the waterways between India and Bangladesh has increased.

The outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the convenience and relatively lower cost to road has encouraged many companies to prefer waterways to transport their goods, mainly imports from India, under a Protocol on Inland Waters Transit and Trade between Bangladesh and India (PIWT&T) signed in 1972.

The two neighboring nations have signed the agreement to make mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways for trade between the two countries and for the passage of goods between two places in one country and to third countries across the territory of the other on mutually agreed terms. on, according to the BIWTA.

“This (waterway) is the cheapest way to do everything. We have been using waterways for a long time because fly ash is dangerous goods and transporting the material by waterway is good for the environment,” Mohammed said. Amirul Haque, Director General of the Prime Minister. Cement.

The cement company brings imported fly ash using the roads under the PIWT&T. It also exported cement to Tripura, an area in northeast India, in 2020.

“We also import other materials by waterway,” he said, suggesting that BIWTA and the Indian authorities improve infrastructure in the waterways to further facilitate the movement of goods and improve river routes, including dredging and other facilities.

Apart from fly ash, steel and iron, stone chips, rice, wheat and maize were also imported through waterways in the fiscal year 2021-22. Among these, Bangladesh has imported imported steel products and stone chips in the past two years, according to BIWTA.

“We see increased awareness and interest of businesses in using waterways in recent years. In the past, people were not very aware of the possibilities of using waterways,” a senior BIWTA official said.

Some of the cargo is also exported to India using the protocol routes, the official added.

According to the protocol, there are 11 ports or terminals in each country to load and unload import and export cargoes.

From this, water carriers mainly use Narayanganj and Mongla in Bangladesh and Kolkata and Haldia in India, according to the operators.

Nazmul Hossain Hamdu, managing director of Sohag Trading Company, which operates 25 vessels, said the cost of transporting goods by waterway was nearly half the cost of road transport per tonne.

He said the number of ships carrying goods on the protocol routes had increased, but the volume of goods had not increased to such an extent.

“The outlook for the future looks bright as the Indian government plans to transport cargo across Bangladesh to the Seven Sisters in its northeastern part,” said Hamdu, vice president of the Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners’ Association. .

Mahfuz Hamid, former president of the Coastal Ship Owners Association of Bangladesh, said the use of the waterways would increase if the National Board of Revenue (NBR) allowed the unloading of items such as steel, machinery and materials. industrial firsts in Narayanganj.

“It will benefit industries by reducing freight costs. On the other hand, the pressure on the roads will decrease,” he said, adding, “What is needed is the completion of procedures customs there”.

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