Bangladesh has still a long way to go into conducting feasibility study of India’s transhipment offer of using Kolkata and Haldia ports for apparel exports to the West.
The offer was made earlier in October from the Indian side and could only see an assurance of “being looked into” from Bangladesh.
Thus far, the shipping ministry of Bangladesh has asked state-run Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute (BFTI) and Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) to assess the prospects of the proposition.
“There hasn’t been any definitive arrangement in this regard. The shipping ministry has just told us they want us to do the study. We have asked about some elaboration in this regard. It is all pre-primary discussion” Ahighly placed source inside Bangladesh Foreign Trade Institute told Apparel Resources on condition of anonymity.
Insiders and relevant stakeholders say, there are two main factors causing the dilly dallying from Bangladesh side – the upcoming general election on December 30, and the interest of Chattogram port.
Bangladesh goes into general elections later this month, and it seems any major development in this issue cannot be expected until the next government is formed in January.
Also, agreeing to Indian proposition would mean undermining the country’s major port, which is, despite struggles, building it’s capacity. But, the development is bound to take time.
WHAT WAS INDIA’S PROPOSAL?
India has proposed Bangladesh to use its Kolkata and Haldia ports for transhipment of its apparel exports – especially to the US and Europe. India’s customs authorities have already cleared the deck at the ports and waiting Bangladesh to do the same.
Under the proposal, Bangladesh’s exporters can send their products through Pangaon land border and into Haldia, ready to be loaded to Colombo or Singapore-bound ships.
While there has been no available cost estimate, the transhipment will allow Bangladesh’s exporters to avoid the 10-12 day delay at Chattogram port and complete loading ships in maximum four days.