Sponge iron export to Bangladesh begins via inland waterways

Amid slow movement of trucks through land ports in West Bengal in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, a consignment of sponge iron weighing about 1,100 tonne has left for Bangladesh through inland waterways for the first time, an official said on Friday.

Congestion at Chittagong port in Bangladesh and slow- moving trade through the Petrapole checkpost in West Bengal”s North 24 Parganas district forced exporters to explore waterways using the Indo-Bangla protocol route to send various products to the neighbouring country, he said.

“The first vessel carrying 1,098 tonne of sponge iron and quartz sailed from G R jetty in Kolkata and will reach Narayangunj, near Dhaka in Bangladesh in the next 7-8 days,” Summit Alliance Port assistant general manager Sagar Khastagir told PTI.

The exporter would require 55 trucks to transport such a quantity, he said.

Summit Alliance is a Bangladeshi port operator working at two jetties of Inland Waterways Authority here.

The first shipment will encourage Indian traders to send their sponge iron consignments to Bangladesh, he said.

“We are exploring this new route to export cargo to Bangladesh. If this is successfully delivered, we will use this (riverine) route regularly,” the exporter of sponge iron Bunty Overseas director Bunty Agarwal said.

Bangladesh accounts for nearly 50 per cent of India”s direct reduced iron (DRI)exports and this product is used mostly in steel mills in the neighbouring country, industry sources said.

“If it works smoothly, the convenience to send products will encourage exporters to choose the new route. Bulk cargo can reach in a single consignment,” Agarwal said.

India”s sponge iron exports to Bangladesh had witnessed a sharp growth in 2019 on the back of rising steel melting capacities in the neighbouring country.

Exports rose by 27 per cent from 67,124 tonne in 2018 to 8,54,251 tonne in the last year.