India on Tuesday (9 August) began trial runs for the trans-shipment of goods to the northeastern states using two key ports in Bangladesh, with a vessel arriving at Mongla port with two containers of transit cargo.
The trial runs were initially scheduled for July, but were pushed to August in order to enable Bangladeshi authorities to complete certain arrangements, including customs procedures.
The development comes ahead of a planned visit to India by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the first week of September.
Announcing the start of trial runs for operationalising a bilateral agreement signed in October 2018 for the transit of goods from India via Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh, the Indian high commission in Dhaka said the vessel carrying two Indian transit containers had arrived at Mongla port on Monday.
The vessel MV Rishad Raihan with cargo bound for the northeastern states was subsequently flagged off by the chairman of Mongla Port Authority, Mohammed Musa, and India's assistant high commissioner in Khulna, Inderjit Sagar.
The trial runs are being undertaken by Maersk India Ltd and will be done on two routes – Mongla-Tamabil-Dawki and Mongla-Bibirbazar-Srimantapur. After being transported by riverine routes in Bangladesh, the goods will enter India through border check points at Dawki in Meghalaya and Srimantapur in West Bengal.
These two routes are among eight approved routes for transit of goods under the 2018 agreement.
India had earlier carried out a trial trans-shipment of goods from Kolkata to Tripura via Chattogram port in southeastern Bangladesh in July 2020.
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic delayed plans for further trial runs.
The Indian high commission said the transit and trans-shipment of goods under the 2018 agreement will reduce both time and cost for transporting cargo to the northeastern states. It will also create economic gains for the logistics and services industry of Bangladesh as only Bangladeshi trucks will be used for moving freight.
The trial runs will help iron out any rough spots and align the immigration and customs set-ups in both countries, people familiar with the matter said. The two sides are looking at several land routes leading to the northeastern states of Meghalaya and Tripura for movement of goods, they said.
The land route between Kolkata and key cities in northeast states is more than 1,200km and the use of Chattogram and Mongla 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.
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.