Bangladesh and India are expected to launch regular coastal shipping services by the end of this year, officials at the Ministry of Shipping confirmed on Sunday.
To take the Bangladesh-India coastal shipping arrangement forward, Bangladesh Shipping Department last week wrote to its Indian counterpart that the agency had received a list of 18 vessels from the Bangladesh Ship Owners Association for operation, sources said.
Since India suggested in June this year that Indian Registrar of Shipping can assist in certification of Bangladeshi vessels, Dhaka now informed that these ships would be available for inspection from first week of September.
Officials said that the regular coastal shipping between Chittagong port and India's eastern ports of Paradip (Orissa) and Haldia (West Bengal) would begin in the winter, when the sea is not rough.
However, the commercial trial run of vessels on India-Bangladesh coastal routes will begin in October.
As of now, there is only riverine protocol between the two neighbouring countries for movement of small vessels on rivers flowing in both the countries. No fresh protocol is required for coastal shipping services, official sources confirmed.
In June, the two sides signed an agreement to finalise the standard operating procedure (SOP) for coastal voyages between the two countries.
India has agreed in principle that all certified vessels operating along Indian coast would follow same standard as it is in the case of domestic vessels to promote the trade and cooperation, officials said.
Bangladesh is developing a mechanism for the state insurance company, Sadharan Bima Corporation, on policy coverage for coastal ships equivalent to $10 million.
Bangladesh is also planning to re-introduce shipping service between Chittagong port and Yangon (formerly Rangoon) which had honked during the British colonial era when steamships used to shuttle between Yangon, Chittagong and Calcutta (Kolkata).
The Times of India writes that Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) is likely to start fresh shipping lines to run container ships between India and Myanmar in October.
Indian government is expected to provide state subsidy for SCI for the first six months. Launching of the regular coastal shipping service will not only reduce burden on road network but will also increase trade between the two countries.
The launching of coastal shipping services would help strengthen ties between the two neighbours, officials remarked.