Transshipment of cargo to N-E States through Chittagong to help coastal shipping

The proposed transshipment of goods to North-East India, particularly Tripura and Mizoram, through Chittagong port in Bangladesh, may help reduce the cost of sea movement of cargo between the two countries, according to a Kolkata port official.

India and Bangladesh recently prepared ground for transshipment through Chittagong and Mongla port. According to port sources, a trial shipment will soon go to Agartala through Chittagong.

Bangladesh has already granted port connectivity to North-East India through Chittagong. As part of the plan, India upgraded the highway and established rail connectivity between Agartala and border town of Sabroom. However, trade infrastructure and rail connectivity between Sabroom and Chittagong are yet to be put in place.

According to an official till such time as the border trade infrastructure is available at Sabroom, cargo can move, by road, through the integrated check-post (ICP).

Considering the small size of north-eastern economies, and the availability of road and rail infra through Indian territories, port officials in Kolkata do not expect a huge movement of transshipment cargo through Chittagong at this juncture.

However, any availability of such cargo, will help improve viability of Kolkata-Chittagong coastal shipping.

The charter-hire rates on this sea route is currently ‘reasonably high’, due to one-sided (India to Bangladesh) nature of the trade and non-availability of return cargo. To solve the problem, India invited Bangladesh to use Kolkata for third-country movement of cargo. The proposal is yet to be accepted.

Meanwhile, the high rates reduce the availability of cargo, adding to the waiting time and costs. Addition of transit cargo, may therefore help improve the flow, reducing the transport costs for India-Bangladesh trade.