Bangladesh okays India’s use of 2 ports to transport goods to the northeast
Chattogram is Bangladesh’s main port and handles more than 90% of the country’s foreign trade while Mongla is the country’s second largest sea port on the Bay of Bengal
Bangladesh has cleared the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports by India for transit and trans-shipment of cargo, a move expected to significantly cut the time and cost needed to transport goods to the country’s northeastern states.
The National Board of Revenue (NBR) of Bangladesh issued a “permanent transit order” on Tuesday that stated the trans-shipment of cargo will be done in line with standard operating procedures finalised by the two countries under an agreement signed in 2018.
India and Bangladesh have taken a range of steps in recent years to boost connectivity, including the revival of several cross-border railway links that had been closed since the 1965 war with Pakistan, linking of riverine waterway systems and use of ports in Bangladesh for trans-shipment of goods to India’s strategic northeastern region.
The two sides signed the “Agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for Movement of Goods to and from India” in October 2018 and finalised the standard operating procedures for operationalising the pact a year later. But the trans-shipment of goods had not started as Bangladesh had to finalise certain customs procedures and put in place necessary logistics, people familiar with the matter said.
The initiative suffered a setback amid the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the Covid-19 crisis also proved the effectiveness of cross-border connectivity, with the Indian side using cross-border train services to ferry essential supplies to Bangladesh.
Over the past year, the two sides conducted comprehensive trial runs for trans-shipment of cargo to the northeastern states using Chattogram and Mongla ports. The first trial trans-shipment of goods was done in July 2020, when a shipment of iron rods and pulses was transported from Haldia port near Kolkata to Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh and then shipped over land to Tripura.
The trial runs, which were completed last November, helped iron out rough spots and align the immigration and customs set-ups in both countries, the people said.
Chattogram is Bangladesh’s main port and handles more than 90% of the country’s foreign trade. Mongla is the country’s second largest sea port on the Bay of Bengal.
The order issued by the Bangladeshi side opens up transit on 16 routes, and cargo can be transported from Chattogram or Mongla port to Agartala in Tripura via Akhaura, Dawki in Meghalaya via Tamabil, Sutarkandi in Assam via Sheola, and Srimantapur in West Bengal via Bibir Bazar.
Similarly, the northeastern states can use these same routes to send goods to the two ports in Bangladesh.
Indian operators will have to obtain a five-year licence from Bangladesh customs, and goods being trans-shipped cannot be kept at ports in Bangladesh for more than a week. Any goods prohibited by the laws of Bangladesh cannot transit through the country, according to the order.
Transporters will have to pay several fees, including a trans-shipment fee of 30 Taka per tonne, security fee of 100 Taka per tonne, an administrative charge of 100 Taka per tonne and tolls for using roads in Bangladesh.