Dhaka has decided to charge Tk 2 per tonne per kilometre in road usage fees for Indian goods that would be transshipped using Bangladesh's territory, officials said.
New Delhi has not consented to the proposal of the communications ministry of Bangladesh yet and has rather requested Dhaka to slash the rates.
The road fee issue surfaced as India's first-ever trial run of transshipment of goods to its north-eastern states through the Chattogram port and Akhaura land port completed this month.
A vessel called MV Sejuti left Kolkata on 14 July and reached Chattogram sea-port on 21 July.
Its cargo of lentils and rods were loaded on four trailer trucks. The trailers carrying the goods reached Akhaura land port the following day. The goods were then loaded into Indian trailers that carried them further inland.
MV Sejuti contained goods weighing 160 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units). Four TEUs carrying iron and pulse were transported to Tripura and Assam and Bangladeshi importers brought the rest.
Chattogram Custom House collected seven types of tariffs on Indian goods.
The charges include Tk 30 for document processing per consignment, Tk 20 per tonne of goods for transshipment, Tk 100 per tonne as security charge, Tk 50 per tonne as escort charge, Tk 100 for other administrative charges, and Tk 254 per container for scanning.
Electric lock and seal fees will be charged as per rules.
Road fees were not be charged for the trial run.
One or two more consignments would make a trip to India's north-eastern states this year using Bangladeshi soil on a trial run before full-fledged transshipment begins.
After the trial run, officials from two sides would sit to finalise the road fee, said a shipping ministry official.
The transshipment is being carried out using Bangladeshi vehicles, both on riverways and road network. The trial was supposed to start in March but got delayed due to the pandemic.
Earlier in 2015, following years of persuasion from India, Dhaka and Delhi signed a letter of intent on the use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports.
Subsequently, the countries signed an agreement in 2018 and a standard operating procedure (SoP) during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in October last year.
According to the SoP, goods reaching Chattogram and Mongla seaports 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.
KOLKATA-ASHUGANJ-AKHAURA RIVER ROUTE
India's long-cherished idea of transshipment became a reality on 19 June 2016, when trucks carrying Indian goods reached Tripura from Ashuganj port under the river protocol.
Much has not progressed, however, as only 17 consignments went to Tripura through Akhaura from the Ashuganj river port because the proposed inland container port in Ashuganj and the four-lane road project from Ashuganj to Akhaura has not completed yet.
In 2016, three consignments were delivered under the arrangements, carrying 4,030 tonnes of products. Bangladesh earned Tk 11.80 lakh in fees.
The following year, 1,600 tonnes of goods went to Tripura and Tk 4.92 lakh was earned.
In 2018, 6,642 tonnes of goods were transported to Tripura and 4,500 tonnes the following year. So far this year, 3,000 tonnes were ferried, allowing Bangladesh to earn Tk 19 lakh, Tk 5 lakh and Tk 2.5 lakh respectively.
The government has undertaken a project to build the river port and four-lane road network with financing from India. The project is being delayed by the complexities related to land acquisition.
India has provided three lines of credit worth $7.5 billion to Bangladesh, and a majority of the money is meant to develop the infrastructure needed for the connectivity through Bangladesh.