New Delhi: The first trial movement of vessels carrying stone aggregates from Maia Port in India to on the Sultanganj Port in Bangladesh Maia-Aricha route successfully took place today. The Bangladesh flag vessel M V Desh Bangla carrying stone aggregates was flagged-off by Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shantanu Thakur from Maia Inland Customs Port in West Bengal.
This marks a new chapter of bilateral cooperation between the two neighbouring countries which is in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Act East Policy.
Addressing the gathering today, Minister of State for Ports, Shipping and Waterways Shantanu Thakur said, “Under the visionary leadership of Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and able direction of Hon’ble Union Minister of Ports, Shipping and Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal, India has embarked on a transformative journey focusing on a comprehensive multi-pronged plan to harness the power of its inland waterways sector.”
Thakur added that, “The trial movement from Maia to Sultanganj through IBP route no. 5 & 6 will add new dimensions to the waterways based transportation between India and Bangladesh as it is the shortest waterway route between the two countries.”
Organized by the Inland Waterways Authority of India, the flagging-off event was attended by first secretary, B’desh High Commission in Kolkata, Additional Commissioner Customs, Kolkata, owner-operator of the Maia riverine port along with senior officials of the authority and other dignitaries.
Underlining the advancement made in the IWT sector in the last ten years, the Chairman of Inland Waterways Authority of India Vijay Kumar noted that “the consistent flow of goods from the Maia terminal will invigorate trade not only with India’s neighboring countries but also with the North Eastern States, ushering in new opportunities for economic growth and regional development.”
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW)has taken up several infrastructure projects on National Waterways 1, Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route and NW2 through the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) with the objective of improving connectivity with Bangladesh and the North Eastern Region through waterways.
The operationalisation of Maia Terminal is expected to be a game-changer as it would shift 2.6 million tonnes per annum of Bangladesh bound export cargo from road to waterways.
The Maia-Aricha route (Protocol Route 5 & 6) will reduce the distance from NW1 to Bangladesh and North Eastern Region by 930 kilometres.
In order to improve bilateral trade between the two nations, the government of Bangladesh has agreed to carry out five trial runs of vessel movement between Maia and Sultanganj.
The trial shipment of cargo on the said route not only demonstrates the expanding potential of waterways but also marks a new beginning for improved connectivity and cooperation between India and Bangladesh.
Over the last 9 years West Bengal has seen massive development in maritime and inland waterways sector. In West Bengal, The Sagarmala Programme of MoPSW oversees 62 projects valued at Rs. 16,300 Crore, with 19 completed projects worth approximately Rs. 1,100 Crore and 43 projects at various stages of implementation totaling around Rs. 15 thousand Crore.
Additionally, 11 projects, partially funded by MoPSW, amounting to around Rs. 650 Crore, have seen 6 projects completed (worth Rs. 400 Crore) and 5 projects (worth Rs. 250 Crore) under development. Among the achievements, projects like Road Connectivity Improvement (worth ~Rs. 100 Crore) have led to traffic decongestion and improved port connectivity, while the Upgradation of tracks at EJC yard of Kolkata Port (Rs. 47 Crore) has enhanced operational efficiency and reduced incidents of derailment.
Inland Water Transport (IWT) is a highly cost-effective mode of transportation, particularly for bulk cargo like coal, iron ore, cement, food grains, and fertilizer. Despite its advantages, its current share in India's modal mix is only 2%. The government aims to increase this share to 5% by 2030 under the Maritime India Vision (MIV)-2030. To achieve this goal, the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) has identified 25 new National Waterways (NWs) through feasibility studies to make them navigable for transportation.
To enhance the modal share of coastal shipping and inland water transport, 46 initiatives have been identified in Amrit Kaal Vision 2047. Key initiatives include the creation of port-based agglomeration centers, coastal berths near production/demand centers, and projects to improve road, rail, and inland waterway connectivity.
Additionally, reducing port dues and terminal charges, providing fiscal incentives such as input tax credit on bunker fuel and spares, and lowering GST for multimodal transportation are proposed measures. The plan also aims to operationalize 50 waterways by 2047 and introduce low-draft vessel designs with possible tug-barge combinations to enhance efficiency and accessibility.
India-Bangladesh relations have evolved across various domains, including political, economic, cultural, and strategic ties over the years. Now, to boost trade and connectivity between India and Bangladesh, the first trial movement of vessels between Maia Port in India and Sultanganj Port in Bangladesh on Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) Route no. 5 & 6 is set to take place on February 12. The vessels will be flagged off by the Minister of State for Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, Shantanu Thakur, from Maia Inland Customs Port in West Bengal at 10:30 AM. This development is in line with the Act East Policy of the Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.
The waterway route from Maia (IBP route) to Dhubri (NW-2) via Aricha will reduce the distance by around 930 kilometers compared to the existing waterway route from Dhulian-Maia-Kolkata-IBP-Dhubri. With this move, 2.6 MTPA of export cargo to Bangladesh is expected to shift from road to waterways.
The riverine distance between Port of Call Maia in India and Port of Call Sultanganj in Bangladesh is 16 kilometers, out of which 4.5 kilometers of waterways are in India and the rest 11.5 kilometers are in Bangladesh.
The flagging-off event will be attended by transport and state transport ministers of the West Bengal government, along with the Member of Parliament from JangipurLok Sabha constituency and Members of the state legislature from Raghunathganj and Lalgola legislative constituencies, as well as other dignitaries.
H.E. Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, paid a State Visit to India from 05-08 September 2022 at the invitation of Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. During the visit,the two sides also agreed to expeditiously explore direct shipping links between the two countries. They also agreed to implement the decision to start riverine services under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) routes 5 & 6 (Dhulian to Rajshahi -extension to Aricha) and 9 & 10 (Daudkandi to Sonamura).