A dredging project to overcome the navigability problem is awaiting Ecnec approval
The first trial run of the new Bangladesh-India protocol route from Daudkandi to Sonamura has faced a few problems which need to be resolved for smooth operations of cargo vessels, officials said.
They said Bangladeshi vessel MB Premium was stuck at different points due to navigability problems while carrying 10 tonnes of cement for export via the Gumti River.
Later, it was sent to Sonamura under special arrangements.
Officials said the low bridges on the river are also a problem.
Commodore Golam Sadeq, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), told The Business Standard they had identified a few problems.
"The biggest problems are the river's navigability and the low bridges. A dredging project to prevent the navigability problem is awaiting Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approval," he said.
"If we get the approval, the navigability crisis will be solved, and goods can be carried easily."
Sadeq further said, "If we can run comparatively big vessels, we can export a large volume of products at a time. If we cannot do that, there will be no profit from this route."
The trial began on Thursday (September 3) from Daudkandi in Cumilla with a Bangladeshi vessel, MB Premium, carrying cement, and ended with the consignment delivered at Sonamura in Tripura on Saturday (September 5). It was the first-ever consignment exported to Tripura through a river route.
The BIWTA chairman officially inaugurated the operation in Bangladesh on Saturday (September 5), while a similar ceremony was also organised in Sonamura, with Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb launching the event.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs in a statement said, "The start of this new protocol route, besides further facilitating overall bilateral trade with Bangladesh, will provide an economical, faster, safer and environment friendly mode of transportation, and will result in substantial economic benefits to local communities on both sides."
The Daudkandi-Sonamura route was recently included in the list of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes. It was signed by High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das and Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury in Dhaka on May 20.
The Protocol on Transit and Trade (PTT) through inland waterways between Bangladesh and India was first signed in 1972. It was last renewed in 2015 for five years, with a provision for automatic renewal and another five years of long-term assurance to stakeholders.
The protocol parameters were revised in the second addendum signed on May 20 with inclusion of new routes and declaration of a host of new ports of call to facilitate trade between both countries.
On July 4 this year, Tripura launched a floating jetty on the Gomti River as part of the Indo-Bangla international inland waterways connectivity project.
The Bangladesh authorities surveyed their part of the Daudkandi-Sonamura protocol route on August 11. Out of the 90km stretch of the route, 89.5km is on the Bangladesh side while merely 500 metres is on the Indian side.
Currently, Tripura exports a handful of goods and material worth 30 crore Indian rupees (Tk34.73 crore) to Bangladesh annually, but imports products worth 645 crore Indian rupees (Tk746.85 crore).