India-Bangladesh trade relations, freight movement via inland waterways discussed at Inland Waterways Summit

Addressing the senior members and industry stakeholders at the Inland Waterways Summit organised by PHDCCI on “Waterways – Connecting People – India & Bangladesh”, Mr. Sanjeev Ranjan, IAS, Secretary, Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Government of India, said that Waterways turns out to be faster, cheaper, sustainable and more eco-friendly than other modes of transport.

Mr. Ranjan stated that government has worked hard to ensured that all the policies glitches which existed in the inland waterways have all been out in place for smoother trade transactions between India and Bangladesh.

Government has opened up new opportunities on both sides to further harness the India- Bangladesh trade relationships added Mr. Ranjan. 

Appreciating PHDCCI for organizing the Inland Waterways summit Mr. Ranjan urged PHDCCI members to participate in the current existing opportunities that are on the table, to be able to reduced cost of transaction and trade between India and Bangladesh as we are emerging as major trading partners .

Mr. Sanjay Bandoupadhayay, IAS, Chairman, Inland Waterways Authority of India, Government of India, stated fact that India has total 20,00 km of length out of which 14,500 is navigable. We have 19 operational waterways for cargo movements and 25 for passengers. He also mentioned that revival of historical river linkages between India and Bangladesh are also in line. All these developments will lead to immense trade opportunities between both the countries. Main objective is to improve the regional trade potential through Inland Waterways in South East Asian countries, said Mr. Bandoupadhayay.

Commodore Golam Sadeq, (N), BSP, NDC, PSC, BN, Chairman, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, said that India & Bangladesh are natural partners. He mentioned that there are immense opportunities in maritime sector and there has a lot been already done to promote smoother trade with India.  Since 2001, 40% trade volume has been increased and a lot more to be expected in the coming future. Our one of the main focus is to provide cruise facilities to promote tourism between both the countries, he added.

Mr. Pradeep Multani, President, PHDCCI, mentioned that India’s modal share of freight moved on inland waterways has significant potential to improve compared to other best in class benchmarks. It is imperative to increase share of the country’s inland waterways as they are highly economical and an eco-friendly mode of transport. Quoting the data from Maritime India Vision 2030 Report issued by Ministry of Ports, Shipping & Waterways, Mr. Multani mentioned Inland waterways contribute ~6% of the country’s freight modal mix, while adjacent developing economies, such as Bangladesh (16%) and Thailand (12%) have a higher share of water-based transport, highlighting the scope for improvement for India. Coastal and inland waterways account for ~5% of the overall container movement in India as compared to 5-15% share of coastal transportation in container movement globally.

India needs a unified digital platform for National Waterways that augments inland waterways infrastructure to drive higher usage of waterways. A unified digital platform will result in transparent availability of information, higher stakeholder interaction, increased traffic on inland waterways, safe voyages, better communication, enhanced monitoring and increased public-private investment.

Mr. Akshyat Bhatia, Head of Multimodal, Maersk South Asia, through his presentation elaborated on the end to end solutions provided to a vast array of their clients. Through the presentation Mr Bhatia touched upon some of the major challenges posed by the sector like drastic traffic through Benapole- Petralope, creating  a bottleneck, posing a great harm to the Bangladeshi importers .

To address these challenges we are working in this direction to reduce  the logistics expense and further reducing the transit time by 67 percent, between India and Bangladesh.

Mr. Sandeep Wadhwa, Chair, Logistics Committee, PHDCCI, stated the fact that 8480 kilometres of the navigable waterway of Bangladesh could be utilised for transportation and distribution of goods between Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan which could anchor robust business relations through the optimal and holistic development of the ecosystem of waterways.

Regular movement of cargo through waterways will also create job opportunities and open the international market for local products through cost-effective transport.

With the accessibility of Inland Waterways Transport, trade between India and Bangladesh is expected to increase and generate more traffic growth on the national waterways, said, Mr. Sandeep Wadhwa.

Dr. Yogesh Srivastav, Assistant Secretary General, PHDCCI, presented a formal vote of thanks and moderated the session.

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