Allowing third country cargo will help realise the full potential of Chattogram port as a transshipment hub and make it a gateway port for South Asia, suggests an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study published on Thursday.
The study titled "Using Chattogram Port as a Transshipment Hub for the North Eastern Region of India" says, using Chattogram port will be cost and time-effective for the North Eastern Region (NER) of India as "the routes connecting Agartala with Chattogram port are cost-efficient compared to the Siliguri Corridor".
"For instance, the distance by road from Kolkata port to Agartala, via the Siliguri Corridor, is approximately 1,570km, requiring transportation time of 8-10 days and transportation cost of Indian rupees 6,300-7,000 per tonne," read the report.
"The transshipment route via Chattogram port is shorter, with a sea distance of about 360 nautical miles – or 650km – from Kolkata to Chattogram port and onwards inland distance of about 250km from Chattogram port to Agartala via Akhaura and the cost is 5,000-5,800 Indian rupees. The transshipment option could save 8%-20% or 500-1,300 rupees per tonne."
The report also says the opening of the Sabroom-Ramgarh-Chattogram route will further trim the distance between the NER and Chattogram, reducing the cost of transportation. This presents an opportunity for the governments of India and Bangladesh to prioritise these routes by identifying and implementing various interventions related to transport connectivity and border infrastructure.
The study also suggested some infrastructure development, including expediting the work of new berths and backup infrastructure at Chattogram port to ease existing port congestion would capture the full potential of this opportunity, given that the average vessel berth time at Chattogram port right now is high, around four days. Also, challenges related to yard storage capacity increase the average dwell time of containers in the port to nearly 10 days.
The study suggests expediting " implementation of bilateral and multilateral agreements and protocols; development and upgradation of border infrastructure and transport connectivity and modernisation of customs practice to facilitate transshipment."
It also said that "Synchronised development of identified rail and road connectivity projects coupled with facility augmentation at key land ports and decongestion initiatives at Chattogram port are crucial to unhindered cargo movement."
The report also suggests that aligned cargo handling procedures and risk management systems across ports, implementation of agreements such as the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement 2015, and integrated operations will enable a smooth logistical flow.
Bangladesh and India have 38 functional land customs stations (LCSs) between India and Bangladesh, of which two are integrated check posts (ICPs) with 24 of these (LCSs or ICPs) notified in the NER. There are multiple routes that can emerge as potential corridors to connect major economic clusters in the NER to Chattogram port through road, rail, and waterway routes.
Chattogram Port Authority has planned various greenfield and brownfield terminal expansions such as the Bay Container Terminal, Mirsarai Terminal, Matarbari Terminal, and Karnaphuli Container Terminal, which will increase the container-handling capacity. The implementation of the capacity expansion plans needs to be expedited to improve the overall productivity of the port, which will also assist in increasing transshipment to the NER in the long term.
The report said the governments of India and Bangladesh need to address various gaps to facilitate the transshipment of the NER cargo through Chattogram port, including the implementation of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement.