The government is to sign an Inland Water Transport Protocol (IWTP) agreement with Myanmar to increase connectivity aimed at boosting Dhaka-Yangon trade, a source in the Ministry of Shipping said yesterday.
“We are now at the final stage of signing a river transport protocol agreement with Myanmar. This will be Bangladesh's second river protocol agreement after India,” said M Alauddin, joint secretary of the ministry.
Waterway is a low cost transport mode compared to other ones as Tk 4.50 is required for per kilometre transport cost by road while it costs only Tk 0.98 for waterway, according to a World Bank (WB) report titled 'Revival of Inland Water Transport: Option and Strategies'.
Alauddin said 25 non-conventional Bangladeshi ships will be able to transport goods through the Myanmar rivers under the planned agreement while the same number of Myanmar ships would be plying the Bangladesh rivers.
The government has already formed a joint shipping committee with 11 members each from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
The committee would have representatives from the Ministries of Commerce, Home and Shipping, National Board of Revenue (NBR), Bangladesh Cargo Owners' Association (BCOA), Bangladesh Coastal Ships Association (BCSA) and private bodies, said Alauddin, also convener of the committee.
The committee will visit Myanmar on May 17 to conduct a physical survey to identify suitable ports where Bangladeshi ships to be anchored, he said, adding that a Myanmar delegation would also visit Bangladesh later.
The official said Bangladeshi ships would transport various goods mainly cement and medicines while ships from Myanmar would carry rice and wood. The protocol may be three-year term, he added.
Alauddin said Dhaka-Yangon proposed such a river transport protocol in 2002.
Bangladesh has the Inland Water Transport Protocol signed in 1972 which is being renewed every two years under the article-8 of Bangladesh-India trade treaty.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni at the 13th Bangladesh India Myanmar Sri Lanka Thailand Economic Cooperation (BIMST- EC) ministerial meeting underlined the importance of direct road, waterways and railway links between the two neighbouring countries.
The bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar has been taking place under the General Trade Agreement and Border Trade Agreement, signed in 1973 and 1994 respectively.
Dhaka exported goods and commodities worth US$ 9.17 million to Yangon in 2008-09, while its import during the period was US $66.65 million, according to Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
--- The Daily Star ---