In a major breakthrough, Bangladesh and India are going to introduce passenger and cruise services on coastal and protocol route shortly.
Both the countries are expected to sign the standard operating procedure (SOP) in this regard during the shipping secretary level talks on October 25.
"We have a coastal shipping agreement with India under which only cargo ships are allowed to ply. After the signing of the SoP there will be no bar to starting cruise shipping between the two countries," shipping secretary Abdus Samad told the FE on Wednesday.
Both the countries agreed to start the service during the former Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in 2010. But this could not be implemented due to bureaucratic complexities.
In November 2015, during the Indo-Bangla shipping secretary-level talks, Dhaka and New Delhi signed the standard operating procedure (SOP) to launch the 'Agreement on Coastal Shipping', which is expected to bring down the logistic costs of export-import cargo between the two countries.
During that meeting, a draft MoU on passenger and cruise services on coastal and protocol route was initialed by the respective secretaries of the two countries as a token of agreement, which will be formalised after the approval from the respective governments.
According to the officials, both the governments will encourage private sector players to operate the passenger shipping services between the two countries.
The Bangladesh delegation will leave for Delhi on October 23 to attend the talks.
On October 24, additional secretaries-level talks will be held, which will be followed by the shipping secretary-level talks on October 25.
The SoP on passenger shipping will be signed on October 26, officials said.
In recent times, Bangladeshi tourists' visit to India marked a sharp rise.
Bangladeshi people constitute the largest number of visitors to India and the Indian High Commission in Dhaka issued 0.97 million visas in 2016 and it grew to around 1.4 million in 2017.
According to Press Information Bureau of India, the percentage share of foreign tourist arrivals in India during September 2017 among the top 15 source countries was highest from Bangladesh 29.65 per cent, while 10.24 per cent from the USA, followed by UK (7.04 pc), Sri Lanka (3.98 pc), Australia (3.50 pc), Malaysia (3.32pc), Germany (2.57pc), Japan (2.50pc), China (2.46pc), Canada (2.40pc), Nepal (2.30pc), France (1.86pc), Singapore (1.77pc), South Korea (1.40pc) and Afghanistan (1.21pc).
The number of arrival in September was 0.72 million as compared to FTAs of 0.60 million in September, 2016 and 0.54 million in September, 2015.
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