After the trial, and based on its outcome, neighbouring India will gain access to Bangladeshi ports
A trial run of trans-shipment between Bangladesh and India is finally going to start from Tuesday after overcoming various procedural and bureaucratic hurdles.
Earlier, the trial run was supposed to begin in January but then the Covid-19 pandemic stalled the process for months. Another tentative schedule was set for the trial run in June, which also could not be executed.
After the trial, and based on its outcome, neighbouring India will get to use Bangladeshi ports -- Chittagong and Mongla -- for transporting goods to and from the northeastern parts of India to its other regions.
The goods, after reaching the ports, will be transported to their destinations using roadways through Bangladesh.
The issue of trans-shipment between the two countries was discussed at a meeting in 2010 during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India. After a decade, it is going to be effective following the trial run.
Starting the journey from Kolkata port, an Indian cargo vessel is likely to arrive at Chittagong port on Thursday, according to the Ministry of Shipping.
The goods will be transported to Tripura by road from Chittagong port, crossing the Akhaura border in Brahmanbaria.
"The Indian cargo vessel will kick off its journey on Tuesday amid the pandemic. It will take two to two and a half days to arrive at Chittagong port," said Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, secretary to the Ministry of Shipping.
"Previously, we planned to conduct two trials, but considering the coronavirus situation, we will not go for more trials. The Chittagong Port Authority is prepared for the trial movement of Indian cargo ships."
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh government has finalized separate drafts regarding the fees, charges, and terms and conditions for using the Chittagong and Mongla ports which have already been shared with India.
The shipping secretary said they would evaluate the trial to finalize the fees, charges, and other vital issues.
"We will also identify problems during the trial run to resolve them before granting official permission for trans-shipment," he said.
The routes suggested for trans-shipment include, among others: from Chittagong or Mongla port to Agartala via Akhaura; from Chittagong or Mongla port to Dawki via Tamabil; from Chittagong or Mongla port to Sutarkandi via Sheola; and from Chittagong or Mongla to Bibekbazar via Simantapur.
Earlier, in the first week of December last year, the shipping secretaries of Bangladesh and India held a meeting in Dhaka, where it was decided to begin the trial run in January this year.
But that was delayed by India due to their objection to the fees and charges fixed by the Bangladesh government.
Draft of fees and charges finalized
Under the terms of the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT), no customs duties will be applicable in transit as India is a signatory to GATT.
However, the Bangladesh government can impose fees and charges for using its ports and roads.
Sources said the Ministry of Shipping and the National Board of Revenue (NBR) have finalized a draft of fees and charges for trans-shipment of Indian goods to and from India.
According to the draft, Tk2.10 per ton has been set for use of each kilometre of road inside Bangladesh to transport goods from A bangladeshi port to the Indian border.
In addition, the per ton trans-shipment fee is set at Tk20, security charge is set at Tk100 for every ton of cargo, an escort charge (if applicable) of Tk50 per container, a document processing charge of Tk30 per invoice, and other administrative charges at a flat Tk100.
Apart from these charges, the container scanning charge has been set at Tk254, and an electric seal and digital lock of Tk600 will be installed on the vehicles.
Trans-shipment to boost economy
Bangladesh expects that such connectivity between the two neighbouring countries will open up greater economic opportunities, strengthen infrastructure, and boost business.
Bangladesh can benefit from levies earned through the movement of Indian ships through Bangladeshi ports. Greater movement of its own inland water vessels is also expected to begin for Bangladesh.
There is also scope for using Bangladeshi vessels and road transport to move Indian goods.
Shipping Secretary Mezbah said that both nations expect to mutually benefit in terms of boosting cargo commerce as well as employment in trans-shipment.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced a transit deal between Bangladesh and India in 2010 during her visit to Delhi. Both countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in 2015 regarding India's use of Chittagong and Mongla ports.
Bangladesh and India signed an agreement on October 25, 2018, for Bangladesh provide facilities to India for the use of the two ports.