By Fotini Tseroni
June 1, 2022
The Padma River in Bangladesh plays a key role in the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol. Photo: Shutterstock
Danish shipping giant Maersk made its debut on the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route when it successfully completed a sailing of containerised cargo for Coca-Cola Bangladesh Beverages in July this year.
Deployed on the route was Indian-registered cargo vessel MV Pradyun, which carried 50 teu from the Indian port of Kolkata to a river port near Dhaka in Bangladesh - the MarineTraffic port calls feature suggests that this port was likely Narayanganj, situated 16 km southeast of Dhaka.
“The cargo movement on inland waterways or rivers is much more reliable, especially in monsoons, when the turbulent weather can cause delays while transporting goods over the ocean,“ said Maersk in a statement in late July. “Moreover, with the ocean network running under capacity pressure, the alternative inland waterways route that is quicker and more reliable has received a warm welcome from shippers. This solution also addresses the bottleneck at the land border between the two countries.”
According to the MarineTraffic Live Map, the MV Pradyun was situated north of Kolkata on India’s Hooghly River on July 28th.
There are two main route arteries under the protocol, according to the Assam Inland Water Transport Development Agency. Protocol 1 is a route between Kolkata to the port of Pandu, which serves Guwahati, the largest city in the Indian state of Assam. For trade plying this route, a vessel would begin its journey in Kolkata, before making its way south to sail east along the coast of India in the Bay of Bengal. The vessel would then sail back inland joining first the Meghna then Padma rivers, through Bangladesh, before joining the Brahmaputra River that heads east into India’s Assam region.
This route can also reach markets in landlocked Bhutan, north of India.
For cargoes sailing to more easterly destinations, vessels would head right, instead of left, just below Dhaka where the mighty Padma and Meghna rivers join. Using Protocol Route 2, vessels for Karimganj in Bangladesh’s far east and beyond, would stay on the Meghna, passing Dhaka on its right. The MV Pradyun’s sailing for Maersk would have used part of this route when it sailed from Kolkata up to Narayangan where it offloaded its cargo.
These are two of a total 10 routes which connect 11 ports in each country, according to Journals of India.
The Indo-Bangladesh Protocol was agreed in 1972 as a means to facilitate trade between the two countries. According to Journals of India it is automatically renewed every five years “giving long term assurance to various stakeholders”.
It is not only Coca-Cola that benefits from the cooperation. Typical cargoes on the route include coal, fly-ash, liquid cargoes such as petroleum, oil and lubricants, and over-sized cargo destined for power projects in the north-east region.
Pandu is situated to the right of Bangladesh in India’s Assam region. Patna, meanwhile, is located in the Bihar region in India’s far north. The vessel would likely have travelled along the Ganges River which leads into the Padma River when it crosses the border into Bangladesh. From there it would follow the river north through Bangladesh and back into India.
According to Indian government news site, Newsonair, the February sailing has “opened a new gateway for connectivity through waterways in the Northeast region. This will initiate the pilot movement of food grains on vessels from to Guwahati. The movement via this vessel will make India’s farmers Aatmanirbhar [self-reliant] by expanding their reach and providing the farmers better prices and better living.”