The recently inaugurated Multimodal Terminal on Inland Waterways-1 for transporting containerized cargo between Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Haldia Port in West Bengal is expected to provide a significant push to exim trade from Eastern India, especially from Kolkata and its catchment areas. It is also expected that in the months to come Haldia Port would be able to strengthen its position as a viable transshipment port in the South East Asia region, thanks to burgeoning and potential trade transactions between India and Bangladesh through multimodal connectivity, where this port would play a pivotal role. On November 12 Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Multimodal Terminal on the River Ganga to the nation, and received the first containerised cargo at Varanasi which was sailed from Haldia port.
Recent study unveils that movement of bilateral cargo between India and Bangladesh through coastal shipping is on the rise. During the first six months of FY19, Haldia Port handled approximately 4,000 containers traded between India and Bangladesh. This is higher than 3,700 boxes handled in the full year of 2017-18. Meanwhile, Government of India has urged Bangladesh to use Kolkata and Haldia ports for transhipment. Experts say the initiative can make coastal shipping more cost effective for bilateral trade, thereby shifting cargo from expensive land route only, and create an opportunity for Bangladeshi garment exporters to reach European and American markets avoiding congestion at the Chittagong port. Currently, garments from Dhaka are transported by road to Chittagong port to be shipped via Colombo or Singapore.
In addition, the Garments and other goods can be transported to Northern and other parts of India by utilizing Inland Waterways-1 and other modes.
Commenting on the impact of the launch of Inland Waterways 1 on the exim trade and Haldia Port, Kolkata based leading customs broker & freight forwarder and Vice Chairman of the Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations in India (FFFAI) Mr Sudip Dey maintained that from connectivity and infrastructure related capacity building’s point of view, anything new is beneficial to business provided one can take advantage of the same. “Import of cargo which are meant for consumption in the heartland of India, especially from the far-east, can now move in a very economical manner. This shall save cost and Kolkata Port will be an added advantage for these imports. We hope to see increased imports via this inland waterways activity and also more activity for the forwarder as they shall be booking the barges themselves. This will reduce dependence on the surface transporter,” explained Mr Dey.
He, however, clarified that to position Haldia Port as a Transhipment port Customs has to take the leading role, because customs cleared cargo is entitled to use this facility. It is pertinent to mention that Indian customs authorities have already given green signal to Bangladesh to use Haldia as a transhipment port. Approval from Bangladesh Customs is awaited. “The only thing that is required is the regulation from the Government side. Besides that Haldia is geared up for transhipment. There are private players who operate berths and they are very professionally managed,” Mr Dey emphasized.
Highlighting the fact that presently volumes of Haldia is on the rise consistently, Mr Dey urged for capacity building as per rising demand. “There are lots to be done in infrastructure front, nevertheless connectivity shall not be an issue,” he added.