India is set to start in January the trial run for transporting goods between its northeastern states and other parts using Bangladesh’s Chattogram and Mongla ports.
The details of the charges and other fees, to be received by Bangladesh, would be finalised before the first trial run, officials said yesterday after a shipping secretary-level talks in the capital.
During the trial run, goods from Kolkata would be transported to Chattogram port through the sea route. Later, those would be carried to the Indian state of Tripura by road via Akhaura land port in Bangladesh, said the officials who attended the two-day meeting.
“The first trial run will take place in January,” Indian Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna told reporters, adding, “Then we will see what kind of glitches come in and [we will] fix it. After that, we will have the second trial run and then we will ask the traders to take over and move goods.”
About the charges and fees, he said, “There are no disagreements on charges … We will have to sit and finalise details of the proposals.”
Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad said, “Fees and charges [for carrying Indian goods] will be applied as per the tariff schedule of the Chattogram and Mongla ports. We will charge fees according to the regulations.”
He said both Bangladesh and India are signatories of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). According to the GATT principle, no custom duties will be applicable for carrying Indian goods.
On the use of the roads, he said charges would be fixed by the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry.
Sources at the meeting said there were at least 50 types of charges and fees at the tariff schedule of the Chattogram and Mongla ports.
Shipping ministry insiders said they were considering charging Tk 1.97 to Tk 2.10 per tonne in line with a proposal of The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Initiatives.
Abdus Samad said the Bangladeshi customs authorities at the ports would electronically lock Indian goods and the locks would be opened only at the Indian destinations.
The two countries had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in 2015, following years of persuasion from India. Subsequently, the countries signed an agreement last year and a standard operating procedure (SoP) during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in October this year.
According to the SoP, goods that reach Chattogram and Mongla sea ports would be carried by four road, rail, and water routes to Agartala (Tripura) via Akhaura; Dawki (Meghalaya) via Tamabil; Sutarkandi (Assam) via Sheola, and Srimantpur (Tripura) via Bibirbazar.
The SoP covers waterways, roads and railways. It will allow the landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states to access open sea trade routes through the Chattogram and Mongla ports.
India will also be allowed to use Nakugaon Land Port in Sherpur to transit goods as the fifth route in line with the agreement, said Abdus Samad.
The decision was taken following a proposal from Bangladesh which was placed at the meeting.
As a result of this decision, Bhutan will also be able to use transit facilities using the Chattogram and Mongla port alongside India, added Abdus Samad.
At yesterday’s meeting, the Indian side said fees applicable on Indian goods moving under the agreement need to be specified in a transparent manner, so as to allow the trade to work out the costs involved in the movement and also to make necessary financial arrangements.
They said that fees and charges levied on transit movements are subject to GATT and WTO provisions.
Any charges levied on such cargo should be reasonable and meant to cover charges of transportation or administrative expenses, or to cost of services rendered.
INDIA WANTS 2 MORE TRANSHIPMENT POINTS
Yesterday, the Indian side asked for two more transhipment points in Bangladesh for transportation of goods.
The points are in Munshiganj’s Muktarpur and Dhaka’s Pangaon.
Currently, Ashuganj is being used as the only such transhipment point in Bangladesh under the River Protocol signed between the two countries in 2010. India began using the port in June 2016.
Asked, Abdus Samad said the Indian proposal would be finalised only after discussions with stakeholders and businessmen.
Officials said allowing the transhipment points might increase traffic congestions at the adjacent places in Dhaka.
They said that Ashuganj port was yet to be developed and the government has taken up a Tk 1,200 crore project to this end. India is giving Tk 300 crore of the amount.
The development work of the port would be completed next year, so India wanted the transhipment points for an interim period.
India plans to carry goods to Agartala and Sonamura of Tripura via Munshiganj’s Muktarpur and Dhaka’s Pangaon routes. Distance from Muktarpur to Agartala is 146km and Sonamura is 120km. Distance from Pangaon to Agartala is 136km and Sonamura is 113km.
Meanwhile, Gopal, the Indian shipping secretary, said during the discussion, Bangladesh demanded cargo ship movement be allowed in Indian waterways.
“We discussed this aspect extensively. We also feel that we will allow this subject to the Bangladesh authorities registration of those vessels under 1976 Inland Shipping Ordinance. If the Bangladesh side registers those vessels under their act which means they will certify about stability, safety, then we will also allow plying of those ships or vessels in our inland waterways,” he said.