The departure of the first Indian cargo ship from Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port in Kolkata to Sittwe port on 4th May 2023, marked the official operationalization of the latter and unlocked India’s Northeast region for connectivity to Southeast Asia.
The Indian cargo ship carrying 20,000 bags holding 1,000 metric tonnes of cement was jointly received at Sittwe Port by the Union minister for Ports, Shipping and Waterways, Sarbananda Sonowal, with Myanmar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport and Communications Admiral Tin Aung San, on Tuesday May 9 2023.
Part of an agreement which was signed between the governments of India and Myanmar in April 2009, the Sittwe Port is expected to promote trade connectivity and people-to-people ties between India and Myanmar and the wider region.
- The benefits of Sittwe port:
- The deep underwater port on the Bay of Bengal will improve the system of transportation between southwest Myanmar and northeast India.
- The commodities may be sent from Kolkata to the Sittwe port, where they can subsequently be delivered to Mizoram.
- The Kaladan Project will offer a different connection between North-East India and the rest of the nation. Access to India’s seven North-East states is now provided through the constrictive Siliguri Corridor. It is also called the Chicken’s Neck.
- Transportation delays and expense overheads will be greatly minimised.
According to Sonowal, the port will boost economic development of NE states under the Act East Policy of the government. Its operationalization will reduce the cost and time of transportation of goods between Kolkata and Agartala and Aizwal by 50%, and it will enhance bilateral and regional trade between the two nations while also contributing to the local economy of Rakhine state of Myanmar.
The greater connectivity provided by the port will lead to employment opportunities and enhanced growth prospects in the region.
While delivering his remark during the inaugural ceremony, Sonowal highlighted the close historical, cultural and economic ties between India and Myanmar, particularly the Rakhine state of Myanmar, and reiterated India’s longstanding commitment towards the development and prosperity of people of Myanmar through developmental initiatives such as the Sittwe Port.
India’s commitment towards development of Sittwe Port:
Constructed at Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in Myanmar on the Bay of Bengal, the deepwater port is situated at the mouth of the Kaladan River. The USD 120 million port was financed by India and is a part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, a collaboration between India and Myanmar. The construction of the project was commenced by India in 2010 with an intention to build an integrated port and canal transport terminal by 2013. However, the construction of the new maritime route was completed in 2018 with a cost of INR 517.29 crores.
On completion, the project shortened the travel distance between Kolkata and Sittwe by around 1,328 kilometres and minimised the need of transporting goods through the constrained Siliguri corridor.
The operationalization of the Port along with the Paletwa and Sittwe Inland Water Transport (IWT) Terminals was undertaken by India on 22nd October 2018, after a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Myanmar.