The long-delayed coastal shipping line between Bangladesh and Myanmar will finally get underway in March, with the aim to boost bilateral trade, Commerce Secretary Mahbub Ahmed said
The coastal vessels were supposed to be launched a year ago but it was delayed for political tension in both the countries, he said.
“But, everything is now at the final stage. We are ready to offer our inland ports for use by vessels from Myanmar,” Ahmed said, adding that vessels from the neighbouring country would be allowed to use four ports.
Both the countries have marked Chittagong, Mongla, Narayanganj and Teknaf ports in Bangladesh and Yangon, Pathein, Sittwe and Maungtaw ports in Myanmar, for use.
Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and Myanmar stands at $100 million per annum; both the countries are hoping to augment the figure to $500 million with the introduction of the shipping line.
“Bangladesh and Myanmar re-established the Dhaka-Yangon air connectivity last December. Our next target is road connectivity,” said Ahmed, who led Bangladesh at the seventh meeting of the Bangladesh-Myanmar Joint Trade Commission held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on January 14-15.
Bangladesh mainly imports food items like rice, lentils and fish and timber from Myanmar, while exporting cement, pharmaceuticals, condensed milk and electric cables.
KB Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Myanmar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the country will greatly benefit from the coastal shipping line as import of basic commodities will be easier, cheaper and quicker.
“Our target is $1 billion trade between the two countries by 2020,” he added.
Due to decades of military rule, Myanmar was unable to increase bilateral or multilateral trade with other countries, leaving it heavily dependent on China and Thailand.