Dhaka, Delhi finalises plan for cross-border vessel plying 

Bangladesh and India on Thursday finalised a procedure for transboundary movement of passenger and cruise vessels as concerned officials of the two countries began a two-day meeting in New Delhi, official news agency BSS has reported.
Officials familiar with the first-day meeting of a standing committee under the bilateral Inland Water Transit and Trade Protocol (PIWTT) said the proposed river cruise services were likely to commence between Kolkata – Dhaka and Guwahati-Jorhat and back.
“The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for movement of passengers and cruise vessels on Inland Protocol and coastal shipping routes have been finalised,” an official familiar with the meeting said.
An Indian shipping ministry statement called it “another critical understanding” reached at between the two countries while their officials also initially agreed to open four new “ports of call” on either side of their territories under a PIWTT.
The meeting primarily decided to declare India’s Kolaghat and Bangladesh’s Chilmari as the new ports of call incorporating Rupnarayan river from Geonkhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route.
According to the officials, the meeting simultaneously agreed to declare Badarpur on the Barak river as an “extended port of call” of Karimganj in Assam and Ghorasal of Ashuganj as another port of call in Bangladesh side on a reciprocal basis.
The Indian side also proposed for the extension of the protocol routes from Kolkata up to Silchar in Assam.
The first-day meeting of the 19th edition of the Standing Committee meeting under the PIWTT was held between concerned officials of the two shipping ministries and related departments.
Officials from Bangladesh who joined it belong to Shipping Ministry, Board of Revenue, Directorate General of Shipping and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
The Indian side of the meeting comprised representatives of ministries of shipping, external affairs, home, finance, DONER and Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI).
Bangladeshi and Indian shipping secretaries are set to join the second-day meeting later Thursday to finalise the decisions.
“The discussions ranged over various issues pertaining to the Protocol arrangements and improvement of inland water transportation (IWT) between the two countries,” the Indian shipping ministry statement read.
It said the inclusion of the Rupnarayan river and two proposed ports of call were expected to facilitate movement of materials like fly ash, cement and construction materials from India to Bangladesh through IWT.
Officials said the meeting also agreed to form a joint committee to explore technical feasibilities to operationalise the Dhulian-Rajshahi protocol route up to Aricha and the reconstruction and opening up of Jangipur navigational lock on river Bhagirathi in line with the landmark 1996 Ganges Waters Treaty.
“This move has the potential to reduce the distance to Assam by more than 450 km on the protocol routes,” the Indian statement read.
The meeting decided as well that a Project Management Consultant for supervision and monitoring of dredging of Ashuganj-Zakiganj and Sirajganj-Daikhowa stretches of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route in Bangladesh will be engaged with 80 percent financial contribution from India and rest by  Bangladesh.
Joint Monitoring Committee has also been constituted for overall monitoring of the dredging works.
The Indian side proposed to allow a ‘Third country’ EXIM Trade under the PIWTT protocol permitting transhipment through Ports on the East Coast of India.
“Bangladesh agreed to hold stakeholder consultations and revert on the matter,” the statement said.
It said both sides agreed for development of Jogighopa as a hub or trans-shipment terminal for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan and notifying Munshiganj River terminal by Bangladesh Customs for routing third party Exim cargo through Kolkata Port.
Officials said the secretary-level meeting today was expected to yield several agreements on the decisions the officials reached earlier including the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods from India, the report said.