No shipment of goods thru Ashuganj in 2.5 yrs

The first Indian vessel carrying transit goods arrives at the Mongla portProthom Alo

No goods have been shipped from Kolkata to Agartala in India’s Tripura state in the last 2.5 years, using the highways and the port of Ashuganj in Bangladesh.

In the previous three and a half years, the transit facility was used for only 17 Indian shipments and the authorities in Bangladesh collected a total of Tk 3.6 million against the service.

The Indian traders did not show any interest to ship their products through Ashuganj after the outbreak of coronavirus, according to the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).

During the first term of Awami League government in 2011, India transported heavy machinery of Palatana Power Plant in Tripura through Ashuganj under special arrangements. Then India expressed interest to avail the transit facility to carry goods regularly between its two states.

After several years of negotiations on various issues including tariff, regulations, the transit facility was officially launched in June 2016. The regular transit route stretched from Kolkata to Ashuganj through waterway and from Ashuganj to Agartala through highway via Akhaura.

Both countries were very optimistic about the transit route. The highway from Ashuganj to Akhaura land port is being upgraded to a four-lane one while a project has been approved to set up a container terminal at Ashuganj.

But there is no interest from the Indian side to use the transit facility despite all these arrangements.

Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), told Prothom Alo that this transit route was promising. The transit-related core committee had recommended the development of various infrastructures, including the construction of a four-lane road from Akhaura to Ashuganj.

But the recommendations have not been implemented in the last one decade. The shipments will increase if the recommended infrastructures are in place.

He also said India in the meantime developed various alternatives including railways for transporting goods from Kolkata to north-eastern states, including Assam.

Only 17 shipments in nearly five years

Under the multidimensional transit, a tariff of Tk 192 per tonne was fixed for using the Ashuganj port under the multidimensional transit. There was no remarkable infrastructure at the Ashuganj port before 2016. The authorities constructed jetties, warehouses, and offices before commencement of the transit facility.

The route was inaugurated in 2016 with the hope that the Indian traders would show interest in the route.

According to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) sources, since the outbreak of coronavirus in 2020, no goods have been transported from Kolkata to Agartala using the transit facility.

In the previous three and a half years, some 17 consignments of ispat, rice, edible oil, and stone reached Agartala using the Bangladesh territory. However, no goods have been taken from Agartala to Kolkata till the date. Bangladesh collected a total of Tk 3.6 million from the transit facility.

Prothom Alo contacted BIWTA director Rafiqul Islam, but he denied to make any statement over the issue.

Shipment of fuel oil

India is transporting fuel oil from Guwahati of Assam to Tripura and Manipur using the Bangladesh territory. The consignments of fuel oil are entering Bangladesh through the Tamabil border and travelling along Sylhet, Fenchuganj, Rajnagar, Moulvibazar, Shamshernagar, and Chatlapur, before reaching Kailashahar in Tripura.

Some 30 tonnes of fuel oil were transported using the transit facility on 26 August. The Indian traders are paying Tk 534 against each tonne of goods.

However, the deadline for carrying fuel oil is 30 November. Earlier, the Indian traders availed the transit facility in 2016.

Trial transit through Chattogram and Mongla

Bangladesh and India signed a deal in November 2018, for carrying goods from Kolkata to north-eastern states of India using Chattogram and Mongla ports.

The first Indian consignment used the transit facility in July 2020. The Bangladesh government received Tk 59,000 in total, including a tariff of Tk 192 for each tonne of goods. However, the transit route has not yet been regularised.