Baby steps for Boost­ing Bi­lat­eral Trade

Maritime Gateway - - From The Editor - R Ramprasad Ed­i­tor and Pub­lisher [email protected]­way­media.in

Amidst six hun­dred plus strong del­e­gates, at the re­cently con­cluded se­cond South Asia Mar­itime and Lo­gis­tics Fo­rum po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, diplo­mats and in­dus­try ex­perts from In­dia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka re­it­er­ated the need to im­prove in­tra-re­gional trade, re­move trade bar­ri­ers and pro­mote re­gional in­te­gra­tion among South Asian na­tions. Pres­ence of H.E Sheik Hasina, honourable Prime Min­is­ter of Gov­ern­ment of the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Bangladesh as Chief Guest at the Fo­rum demon­strated the com­mit­ment and will­ing­ness to ini­ti­ate di­a­logue in this di­rec­tion.

In­dia-bangladesh trade grew 38 per cent to $9.1 bil­lion over the last four years. On a year-on-year ba­sis, the trade grew 24 per cent in 2017-18. This was fol­lowed by nearly 22 per cent growth in April-july 2018. This high­lights the grow­ing need to aug­ment han­dling ca­pac­i­ties on ei­ther side, keep­ing in tune with grow­ing trade vol­umes.

Keep­ing in tune with the trend, move­ment of bi­lat­eral cargo through coastal ship­ping is also ris­ing. Trans­ship­ment oper­a­tions be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh can make coastal ship­ping more cost ef­fec­tive for bi­lat­eral trade, thereby shift­ing cargo from the costly land route, and cre­ate an op­por­tu­nity for Bangladeshi gar­ment ex­porters to reach Euro­pean and

Amer­i­can mar­kets avoid­ing con­ges­tion at the Chit­tagong port.

In­dian cus­toms au­thor­i­ties have al­ready cleared the deck for Bangladesh to use Hal­dia as a trans­ship­ment port. How­ever, Bangladesh is yet to ap­prove the same. Con­tainer ship­ping lines and port op­er­a­tors in In­dia are seek­ing a change in the bi­lat­eral coastal ship­ping agree­ment signed be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh to per­mit trans­ship­ment of Bangladesh cargo from In­dian ports. The In­dia-bangladesh coastal ship­ping agree­ment cov­ers only ori­gin-des­ti­na­tion cargo be­tween the two neigh­bour­ing coun­tries. The deep draught ports like Visakhapatnam and Kr­ish­na­p­at­nam on the east­ern coast of In­dia can act as hub ports for the on­ward trans­porta­tion of cargo to Bangladesh via the coastal mode through river sea ves­sels with In­dian ports se­cur­ing more cargo and lower trans­port costs to Bangladesh. Sim­i­larly, Sri Lanka is also push­ing for a bi­lat­eral coastal ship­ping agree­ment with Bangladesh to boost trade, in­vest­ment and mar­itime con­nec­tiv­ity be­tween Dhaka and Colombo. It will in­crease the fre­quency of feeder ser­vices be­tween the ports of Chit­tagong and Colombo, cut­ting down both the trans­ship­ment cost and time. Hope­fully, sec­re­tary-level talks be­tween In­dia and Bangladesh this week in Delhi might find right so­lu­tion!

The deep draught ports like Visakhapatnam and Kr­ish­na­p­at­nam on the east­ern coast of In­dia can act as hub ports for the on­ward trans­porta­tion of cargo to Bangladesh

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