India and Bangladesh today launched transshipment operations at the Ashuganj port to boost trade and facilitate seamless movement of goods in the landlocked region, with a cargo vessel unloading the maiden consignment to be transported to Tripura through Bangladeshi territory.
Bangladesh’s Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan launched the operation at Ashuganj port in central Bangladesh, where 1,000 tonnes of iron and steel sheets were unloaded to be trans- shipped to Tripura through Bangladesh territory in trucks.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Bangladeshi lawmakers and senior officials witnessed the inaugural ceremony.
Under a revised protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade as part of a bilateral agreement signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June last year, India and Bangladesh agreed to let each other use their territories for transiting goods to a third country.
The deal would enable Bangladesh to use Indian territory to transport goods to Nepal and Bhutan while on the other hand India would access Myanmar by crossing through Bangladesh.
Under the arrangement, vessels carrying Indian cargos would unload at Ashuganj port, from where Bangladeshi trucks will carry the goods to Tripura to be delivered at the Akhaura checkpoint, the second largest trading point between India and Bangladesh after the Benapole-Petrapole post with West Bengal.
India had long been seeking transit and transshipment facility to carry goods to Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, from West Bengal through a shortened route via Bangladesh.
At present, trucks from Kolkata travel around 1,600 kilometres to reach Agartala. The distance through Bangladesh would be only 500 kilometres, according to experts.
According to analysts, it costs India USD 67 to transport per tonne of goods from Kolkata to Agartala and Indian trucks take 30 days to reach there through the rugged terrains.
The transshipment facility – combining riverine and land routes – would now enable India to deliver goods in an estimated 10-day time and reduce transport cost by nearly 50 per cent.