India and Bangladesh are preparing for comprehensive trial runs for trans-shipment of cargo to the northeastern states using Chattogram and Mongla ports as part of efforts to further boost connectivity between the two sides.
The move comes more than three years after the two sides signed an agreement in October 2018 for using Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India via Bangladeshi territory. The trial runs were initially slated for July though dates are yet to be finalised, people familiar with the matter said.
India carried out a trial trans-shipment of goods from Kolkata to Tripura via Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh in July 2020. A shipment of iron rods and pulses was shipped from Haldia port to Chattogram port and then transported via land to Tripura, marking the revival of a route that had not been used for decades. Further trials could not be conducted due to disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The two sides are now preparing for at least four trial runs to the two ports in Bangladesh with the intention of ironing out any rough spots and to align the immigration and customs set-ups in both countries.
They are also looking at several land routes leading to the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Tripura for the movement of goods, they added.
On the Bangladeshi side, a meeting was held earlier this month to discuss the trial runs.
The meeting was attended by representatives of the ministries of shipping, foreign affairs, home affairs and commerce, the National Board of Revenue, and the port authorities of Chattogram and Mongla.
The land route between Kolkata and key cities in northeast states is more than 1,200km and the use of Chattogram and Mongal ports for trans-shipment will cut the distance to almost half.
The trans-shipment arrangement will facilitate the movement of heavier cargo at a lower cost and also boost business services and the logistics sector in Bangladesh, they added.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had reiterated her country's offer to use Chattogram port for trans-shipment of goods to India's northeastern states and to increase connectivity at a meeting with external affairs minister S Jaishankar in Dhaka on April 28. Jaishankar had handed over to Hasina an invitation to visit India, and the trip has been scheduled for September.
The proposal for using Chattogram and Mongla ports for trans-shipment of goods to India's northeastern states dates back to a joint communiqué issued during Bangladesh prime minister's visit to India in January 2010. The agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports for movement of goods to and from India of October 2018 envisages the trans-shipment of goods via four land routes.
These routes are Agartala via Akhaura, Dawki via Tamabil, Sutarkandi via Sheola, and Srimantapur via Bibirbazar. Transportation within Bangladesh will be done by Bangladeshi vehicles or vessels till the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement is finalised.