NEW DELHI : India is exploring new routes of cargo shipment to its North-Eastern States using Bangladesh’s ports as trans-shipment hubs. Attempts are being made to bring in Bangladeshi cargo into Indian ports – particularly Kolkata – and then shipped out to export markets from there.
Two ports in Bangladesh — Mongla & Chattogram (Chittagong) — are being tapped as possible transit hubs. This means that goods will be shipped from the Kolkata Port (Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port) to these two ports and from there, they will be shipped via road to the Indian States, Assam (the lower Assam region), Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura.
The move is expected to reduce the travel time by almost half, and the costs by nearly one-fifth. Transporters say, travel to the North-Eastern States via the ‘Chicken’s Neck’ region — also called the Siliguri Corridor — takes at least 9 to 12 days; and this includes a 10 – 15 per cent damage of goods because of road conditions.
On the other hand, cargo movement, partly through waterways and partly via roads, is a six-to-eight day process (three days from Kolkata to a port in Bangladesh and another 3-to-4 days for movement to the NE).
A trial run for such trans-shipment was done pre-pandemic, and four more — Mongla to Tamabil, Tamabil to Chittagong, Chittagong to Sheola and Mongla to Bibirbazar (all in Bangladesh) — are being done right now, sources in the Union Ports, Shipping and Waterways Ministry said.
A problem that had then cropped up was getting return cargo from the North-East or from Bangladesh, as vessels were returning empty. According to Vinit Kumar, Chairman, Syama Prasad Mookerjee Port Trust, discussions have also been initiated to bring in Bangaldeshi cargo to Kolkata and then export the same from here.
“The Syama Prasad Mookerjee port in Kolkata partnered with Maersk Line India for the trial runs from Mongla to Tamabil and Mongla to Bibirbazar. For the trial runs from Chittagong to Sheola and another from Tamabil to Chittagong, we have partnered with CJ Darcl Logistics. The trials are underway,” he said.
According to Kumar, Tata Steel is sending TMT bars, of 25 MT, from Kolkata to Silchar at Assam using Chittagong Port and then through the Sheola-Sutarkhandi LCS border points. The container, Trans Samudera — VSTU2031090 —during the return will move tea from Tamabil to Chittagong. The Dawki (in India) – Tamabil LCS route will be used to bring the shipment to Chittagong port and then from there to Kolkata.
Final report by Sep-end
A final report on the feasibility of the routes, including the tweaking of systems and software at the level of customs, is expected from the Kolkata port authorities to the MEA by september-end. This will then be followed up with the neighbouring country.
“These are duty free goods that are moving from one place in India to another through Bangladesh. So, there needs to be some changes to the software at Customs end, both in India and Bangladesh. All these will be looked into once the route feasibility report comes,” an official said. If given clearances, it would take nearly two more years for the routes to materialise.