Indian exports account for more than 98 percent of trade transportation via the IBP route
India is preparing for its first containerised cargo consignment to Bangladesh via the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route, reports the Press Trust of India.
The Indo-Bangladesh Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade exists between the two neighbouring countries under which inland vessels of one country can transit through the specified routes of the other.
Currently, the waterways are being used for transportation of bulk cargo – like fly ash, coal, stone chips, and some other heavy materials – that Bangladesh imports from India.
According to the Press Trust of India, the Indian government, on Saturday, announced that a total 64 twenty-feet equivalent units of containers, with steel fillings or pig iron ingots inside, will be transported to Narayanganj from West Bengal's Haldia port.
The Indian exporter is waiting for customs clearance.
West Bengal-based company Rashmi Metaliks Ltd is the manufacturer of the said semi-finished raw material for Bangladeshi steel re-rollers, mainly concentrated in the Dhaka belt.
However, the route would include India's National Waterway 1, National Waterway 97 (Sundarbans) and finally the IBP route on the Bangladesh side.
In 1972, Bangladesh and India entered into the protocol and it has been renewed. The two countries have initiated jointly sponsored dredging projects in two of Bangladesh's waterways.
India is spending on the projects because they offer them the opportunity to transport cargo to and from its north-eastern states at a much cheaper cost than via alternative routes.
In recent years, the country has successfully accomplished some strategic cargo transportation via the IBP inland waterways.
Meanwhile, the two countries' imbalanced trade relations have long been a concern for Bangladeshi trade experts.
India's exports to Bangladesh in fiscal year 2018-19 stood at $9.21 billion while its imports from Bangladesh totalled just $1.04 billion over the same year, said the Press Trust of India.
Rakibul Islam, director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, said, "Currently, Bangladeshi vessels are more active on the route. Those go to Indian inland water ports empty and come back with bulk materials for manufacturing industries."
Only 14 Indian vessels came to Bangladesh, mainly to transport machinery, last year, he recalled.
Indian exports account for more than 98 percent of trade transportation via the IBP route.
He said Bangladesh has 203 shipping companies which have around 300 ships.
Increasing dependency on the waterways could reduce pressure on land ports between the border of Bangladesh and India, experts believe.