India to use Bangladesh seaports without transit, customs fees

Shakhawat Hossain    | Updated at 07:14pm on December 09, 2019

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Chattogram port. -- New Age file photo

There will be no transit charges and custom duties but administrative fees for India as it eyes trial run from January of transhipping cargos through Chattogram and Mongla seaports from its landlocked northern states and vice-versa.

The decisions were taken at a meeting of the inter-governmental committee of Bangladesh and India on shipping in the capital on Thursday.

The committee meeting was held on the second and concluding day of the two-day secretary-level talks between the shipping ministries of the two countries.

Shipping secretary Abdus Samad of Bangladesh and his Indian counterpart Gopal Krishna briefed the reporters about the outcomes of the talks at a press briefing.

Abdus Samad said that there would be no customs duties and transhipment charges on the Indian cargos in line with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.

Only administrative fees in addition to road charges will be taken for allowing transhipment of their goods, he said. Replying to a question, he said that there was not yet any concrete ‘calculation about the administrative fees’ to be taken from them for using the country’s two main sea ports.

He said that the administrative fees would be known during the trial run scheduled to take place through the Chattogram sea port in January.

Gopal Krishna expressed satisfaction with the outcomes of the talks but said that ‘some issues like finalisations of the agreement’ for using the Chattogram and Mongla seaports were still needed to be done.

The trial run aimed at findings the ‘glitzes’ in the way of operationalizing the agreement, he said.

India had been pressing Bangladesh and was able to convince the Awami League-led government to strike a memorandum of understanding on the use of the seaports on June 6, 2015, and an agreement on October 25, 2018.

The standard operating procedure on the use of the country’s two main seaports was signed during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi on October 3-6, 2019.

India was also allowed to tranship its goods from its mainland to its north-eastern states since June 2016 through waterways under the revised river protocol between two countries.

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority received Tk 192.25 as transhipment fee against per tonne Indian goods carried through Ashuganj as the port of call.

Abdus Samad said that the Bangladesh was advised to submit applications to the Indian ministry of home affairs to solve the Bangladeshi sailors’ problems on leaving shores in India.

Bangladeshi sailors have been deprived of the facility at the Indian ports for long though the Indian sailors enjoy the facility at the Bangladesh ports.  India also assured Bangladesh of reviewing the demand for declaring the Summit Alliance Port Limited at Muktarpur in Munshiganj as a port of call under the Coastal Shipping Agreement between two countries.

The Coastal Shipping Agreement is one of the three pacts signed by Bangladesh in last four years after India had proposed all those to enhance its connectivity with the landlocked states in its north-eastern region.

It is calculated that both time and distance have gone down to one-third for transporting goods by the Indian businessmen through Bangladesh instead of present routes through the ‘chicken neck’ in Siliguri.

The previous secretary-level meeting was held in Delhi in 2018.