A first ever containerised cargo export from India to Bangladesh using Inland Waterways reached its destination Pangaon International Container Terminal, Dhaka on July 12, 2020. The barge MV Pruthvi carrying 45 TEUs (about 1,250 MT) of sponge iron was flagged off on June 30, 2020, from Haldia Docks for its maiden voyage from Haldia to Dhaka on Indo Bangladesh Protocol Route (IBPR).
Post receipt of its Let Export Order, the barge sailed on July 5, 2020, from Haldia and completed its voyage in 7 days. Adani Logistics in association with Five Star Logistics moved this first consignment of Rashmi Cement and Orissa Metaliks.
The India-Bangladesh Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT) was signed in 1972 to allow free movement of goods between India and Bangladesh through specified routes linking domestic cargo movement between West Bengal, Assam and Tripura via Bangladesh, as well as ex-im cargo movement from India to Bangladesh. The government of India in recent years has strongly supported the development and commercialisation of inland waterways in India. Strengthening of PIWTT from time to time by both India and Bangladesh clearly indicates the vision for future trade between these two countries as well as to the North-Eastern States. The success of this landmark container export cargo consignment has provided importers and exporters of India and Bangladesh an alternative to roadways and railways. Currently, majority of the exports and imports through West Bengal region to Bangladesh takes place through Petrapole (India) and Benapole (Bangladesh). In fact, Petrapole is one of the largest Land Customs Stations (LCS) in Asia, handling trade of more than $ 2.5 billion.
“Since last year, our team is working on offering commercially viable logistics solutions using inland waterways.
Previously, we have successfully completed the domestic containerised movement between Haldia-Patna on NW1 and Haldia-Guwahati on NW2 (using IBPR). The success of containerised movement from Haldia to Guwahati on NW2 (using IBPR) has generated keen interest with the importers/exporters of both India and Bangladesh to extend its usage for ex-im cargo movement. One vessel movement is equivalent to 64 or more trucks. Thus, inland waterways provide a competitive alternative to current road-based movement of goods through Petrapole ICP. Containerised movement of sponge iron is a safer alternative as compared to carrying the cargo in bulk/break-bulk, which has also been appreciated by industry,” said Capt. Anil Kishore Singh, CEO – Inland Waterways of Adani Logistics.
Pre-Covid-19 lockdown, the ICP at Petrapole used to handle about 500-550 trucks from India and about 100-150 trucks from Bangladesh every day. Since the past few years, exporters/importers of both the nations are looking for alternative transportation options to avoid congestion, delays and multiple handling of cargo at Petrapole ICP (which shoots up the cost). Bulk commodities such as fly ash, stone aggregates, project cargo, etc. are already being moved from India to Bangladesh using inland waterways. Containerised cargo movement is an essential addition for making inland waterways an eligible candidate for high-value goods too. Both governments have identified Petrapole-Benapole land border stations as the key ex-im gateway for bilateral trade and are working together to provide every possible infrastructure, the release added.
Ms Riva Ganguly Das, High Commissioner of India to Bangladesh, welcomed the movement of the first containerised cargo export from India to Bangladesh using inland waterways. She said: “India and Bangladesh had recently signed the 2nd Addendum to Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit… which included two new routes, five new ports of call and two extended ports of call including Summit Alliance Port Ltd (SAPL), Mukhtarpur in Bangladesh. Connectivity provided by the existing and the newly added protocol routes provides excellent opportunity for expansion of our bilateral trade, besides which, in the present Covid-19 scenario, it provides economical, faster and safer mode of transport for business communities of both the countries and will also have environmental benefits for the region.”