Dhaka plea to unload vessels- Meet between two countries on renewal of trade protocol
Guwahati, Feb. 20: The Bangladeshi waterways authorities have asked their Indian counterparts to expedite the process of unloading of National Hydroelectric Power Corporation cargo at Pandu port so that their vessels could be freed.
Sources said the issue came up for discussion at the meeting on renewal of protocol on inland water transit and trade between India and Bangladesh at Goa, February 12-13.
The Indian side was represented by K. Mohandas, secretary, ministry of shipping, while Mohd Abdul Mannan Howlader, secretary, ministry of shipping, Bangladesh, represented the neighbouring country.
In the meeting, the Bangladeshi officials said their cargo vessels — Tug NT Lighter-3, NT Lighter-4 and NT Lighter-5 and TLN 29 — carrying over dimensional consignment for the NHPC have been stranded at Pandu for quite some time.
Sources in the Inland Waterways Authority of India said the vessels were stranded at Pandu for a couple of months.
The Indian officials at the meeting said unloading was likely to be completed by March 15, but the Bangladeshi authorities requested them to expedite the matter.
An Indian company had hired vessels from Bangladesh to carry cargo for the NHPC’s Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project.
The agitation by student organisations on the Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project issue had completely blocked the movement of the project material to the site.
Apart from Pandu, project consignment is also lying at Tezpur for the last four months.
Bangladesh, in the meeting, requested India to bring to their notice any vessels being grounded so that necessary action could be taken.
Officials of the neighbouring country said the state government authorities in India, many times, do not recognise the documents accepted under the protocol.
The Indian delegation has said such incidents would not recur in the future.
The protocol has been extended by one year and will come into force from April 1 to March 31, 2012.
India had proposed that the protocol should be extended by five years as it would give confidence to the business community and would lead to development of trade on protocol route.
Bangladesh stated that as the trade agreement between Bangladesh and India, under which the inland water transit and trade is concluded, is valid only up to March 31, 2012, and therefore the protocol would be extended till the validity of the trade agreement.
There are three ports of call in Assam — Pandu, Silghat and Karimganj — under the protocol.
The protocol rules state that each country will provide all the necessary facilities to the vessels of other, which may be grounded or otherwise in distress during their voyage in the waterways.