Stones sail to Bangladesh from Bhutan thru’ India

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - This is the first time the Indian waterway was used as a channel for transport of cargo between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Some 1,000 tonnes of stone aggregates from Bhutan were delivered successfully to Bangladesh using Indian territory, paving the way for trade with the landlocked nation in a quicker and cheaper way.

The stone aggregates, which were imported by Bashundhara Group, were sent from Phuentsholing in trucks to Assam’s Dhubri river port for delivering them to Bangladesh.

This is the first time the Indian waterway was used as a channel for transport of cargo between Bangladesh and Bhutan.

Thanks to using the waterways, the transportation cost to and from Bhutan will be 30 percent lower and the travel time at least eight days shorter, SK Mahfuz Hamid, chairman of the Coastal Ship Owners’ Association of Bangladesh, told The Daily Star on Thursday.

Bangladesh is the second largest trading partner and export market for Bhutan. The trade volume between the two countries was $53 million in 2017, up from just a few thousands in 1998, according to official data of Bhutan.

Bhutan exports significant quantity of stone aggregates to Bangladesh using the time-consuming land route.

The ship -- MV AAI of the Inland Waterways Authority of India -- set sail from Dhubri on July 12 and arrived at Narayanganj on July 16.

Mansukh Mandaviya, Indian minister of state for shipping, digitally flagged off the ship from Dhubri, 160-km away from Bhutan’s Phuentsholing.

Riva Ganguly Das, high commissioner of India to Bangladesh, Sonam T Rabgye, ambassador of Bhutan,  and Safwan Sobhan, vice-chairman of Bashundhara Group, received the first-ever consignment through the Indo-Bangla Inland Waterways Protocol route at Narayanganj yesterday.

The move will be beneficial to India, Bhutan and Bangladesh and it will strengthen relations between the neighbouring countries, Das said.

Transportation costs of goods will significantly come down for the use of the river routes, Rabgye said.  More ships with the capacity to carry 5,000 tonnes to 7,000 tonnes will soon come from Bhutan at Rowmari point in Kurigram district and from there goods will be transported by road, according to Hamid.

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