Inauguration ceremony of first consignment from Bhutan using the inland waterways

The first ever consignment of 1000 metric tons of 20 mm stone aggregates/chips from Bhutan was flagged off from Dhubri port in Assam, India on 12th July 2019 at 5:45 PM local time. The consignment reached Narayanganj Port in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 16th July 2019 at 2:00 PM local time, after travelling for three and half days through the Brahmaputra river covering a total distance of 615 KM.

This historic cargo consignment using inland waterways or the riverine route is the outcome of the visit of Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh to Bhutan in April 2017 and the subsequent visit by the Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bhutan to Bangladesh in 2019 during which the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and SOP for Use of Inland Waterways for Transportation of Bilateral Trade and Transit Cargoes were signed.

The main purpose of the MoU is to take forward the existing friendly relations and further strengthen trade, investment and economic cooperation between the two countries. The export and import of goods through use of riverine routes is expected to not only reduce the costs significantly but will also serve as an excellent example of economic cooperation and sub-regional cross border trade involving three friendly neighboring countries – Bhutan, Bangladesh and India.

On behalf of the Royal Government of Bhutan, the historic inaugural consignment was received by H.E Ambassador and the officials from the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh in presence of Commodore M. Mahbub-ul Islam, Chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), officials from the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, National Board of Revenue of the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and Indian High Commissioner H.E Smt. Riva Ganguly Das.

Due to a number of initiatives and cooperation between Bangladesh and Bhutan, the last couple of years have witnessed an exponential growth in trade. In 2018 the total value was recorded at USD 94.15 million, an increase of 67.8% compared to the previous year. Export of boulders to Bangladesh valued at Nu. 2 billion contributed the highest to bilateral trade in 2018 – an increase of 205% to that of 2017. The use of Inland Waterways for trade between Bangladesh, Bhutan and India has unlimited potential.

The Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs initiated a move for MoU and SoP for inland waterways with the Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Commerce, GoB for our bilateral trade and transit cargoes and subsequently undertook the feasibility study and several rounds of field visits to the trade routes jointly with GoB officials.  With the opening of inland waterway transportation or the riverine route, the cost of transportation is expected to be reduced by 30- 40%, and travel time by 50% and also help address other transit and transport related challenges currently faced by our exporters.

The Department of Trade, Ministry of Economic Affairs would like to inform our private sector, particularly the exporters, to take full advantage of this new transport arrangement and assures MoEA’s continued support and assistance to further promote the private sector.