19-03-2018

Kolkata to Dhaka: Ministry keen to push cargo through river route

In an effort to reduce logistics costs and make India-Bangladesh trade more competitive, the Union Shipping Ministry has proposed the inclusion of Pangaon river terminal near Dhaka in the bilateral protocol for inland water trade, during the upcoming secretary-level talks.

The Pangaon container terminal is located 20 km from Dhaka. Currently Kolkata port in West Bengal; Mongla, Narayanganj, Ashugunj in Bangladesh; and Karimgunj in Assam are listed in the protocol.

“We will propose inclusion of Pangaon terminal in the protocol during the annual secretary-level meet, which is expected shortly. We expect the proposal to receive the support of the Bangladesh government as it would help transport goods at a cheaper cost between Kolkata and Dhaka,” Gopal Krishna, Secretary Shipping, told BusinessLine .

He was in Kolkata to assess the progress of the World Bank-aided Ganga Jal Marg project and flag-off two tug-barge flotillas, each of which can carry nearly a rake load of cargo, to cater to the Bangladeshi demand for fly-ash for land-filling purposes.

Though Bangladesh is the ninth largest importer of Indian goods, the dominance of non-containerised road cargo (largely through the congested Petrapole-Benapole border) coupled with lack of uniformity in axel-load restrictions makes India-Bangladesh trade costly.

This could also be the major reason for the slow growth in official bi-lateral trade, which, after being stagnant for two consecutive years, registered an 11 per cent growth to $7.5 billion in 2016-17.

The high cost of formal trade has led to a high volume of informal trade, resulting in revenue loss to Bangladesh.

This problem can be solved by containerising and shifting road cargo to cheaper rail and inland river transport.

After ignoring these issues for long, India is now working on them. To boost container train service between the two nations, India has approved Rs. 40 crore for a transhipment hub at Ishwardy in Bangladesh across the Gede-Darshana broad-gauge connectivity.

Inland water is the cheapest mode of transport and attracts a high volume of the domestic cargo movement in Bangladesh. With the Rs. 5,369-crore Jal Marg project under implementation and Kolkata emerging as a multi-modal transport hub, India is now keen to tap this opportunity.

Joint river dredging

Meanwhile India and Bangladesh are keen on initiating a Rs. 305-crore dredging project in Sirajganj-Daikhawa on Kushiyara river in Bangladesh to promote inland river movement between Kolkata and the North East through Bangladesh. India will bear 80 per cent ( Rs. 244 crore) of the total cost.

According to Pravir Pandey, Vice-Chairman of the Inland Waterways Authority (IWAI), following the successful pre-bid meetings, tenders have been invited from suitable contractors in India and Bangladesh to participate in the project.

On the Jal Marg project that aims to create a fairway from Varanasi to Haldia on the Ganga, Pandey said dredging contracts have been issued for the Farakka-Kahalgaon section.

Of the six, three proposed terminals at Varanasi in UP, Sahibgunj in Jharkhand and Haldia in West Bengal are expected to be completed by 2019.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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