With little infrastructure and almost no equipment for weighing or handling goods, the Ashuganj river port has officially been opened for transshipment between Bangladesh and India.
Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan formally inaugurated transshipment at Ashuganj river port premises in Brahmanbaria on Thursday.
The cargo vessel MV Newtek-6, carrying iron rods from India’s Kolkata, arrived at the port for the first time in Bangladesh history.
Cargo will arrive at Ashuganj from Kolkata by water and go to Akhaura land port in the district to enter Tripura.
Transshipment through Bangladeshi territory will reduce the cargo’s travel time from 25-30 days to 10-15 days.
The Ashuganj river port is in poor condition and lacks the necessary infrastructure for the handling of heavy goods. There are no machines for weighing the goods.
The 3,336sqft terminal only contains a storage facility and two compartments for officials.
Besides, the road network for carrying goods from Ashuganj to Akhaura is riddled with potholes.
The distance between the two ports is 56km, but the two-lane road is almost unfit for heavy vehicles.
Bangladesh and India agreed under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) that goods to be transshipped will have to pay a total amount of Tk192.22 per tonne to the government of Bangladesh as transit fee.
However, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has proposed a Tk700 per tonne fee.
Addressing the inauguration ceremony, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said: “We have just begun a bilateral journey. When the inland container terminal is built and machines are installed in the port, the transit fee might be raised to more than Tk700.”
The minister said Bangladesh would be able to earn foreign exchange from the transit but more importantly by exporting transport services beyond the border.
It is estimated that in the initial years, at least two million tonnes of cargo will be transshipped annually.
Prime Minister’s Economic Affairs Adviser Mashiur Rahman and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla were also present at the programme.