NEW DELHI: Bangladesh and India are testing a containerized rail service to help alleviate the ongoing congestion in the Chittagong Port.
Textile shippers have welcomed the service, which will help to ensure steady supplies of cotton by cutting transit time drastically and halving costs. The service will take just 12 hours to get a container from the Indian port city of Kolkata to the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, compared with 25 days for a container that is transshipped at Colombo for delivery to the Port of Chittagong.
“The initiative is good. Collecting cotton will be a matter of time,” Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA) Vice President Abdullah Al Mahmud said. “The service will cut carrying costs as well. It’s good news for textile sector.”
The trial run will take place next month, Habibur Rahman, a General Director for Bangladesh Railway said recently.
“We are planning at least one trip a week at the preliminary stage,” Rahman said, adding that the frequency will rise based on demand and a Bangladeshi train can haul 60 containers at a time.
“Since Kolkata is very close to us and takes only 12 hours to reach a train there, we will be able to give several trips in a week if needed,” he said. “The shippers are contacting and encouraging us to start the service. The merchants are very much interested to container train service.”
He said most of the garment factories in Dhaka area are located near Gazipur, so another inland container depot in that area may be needed to facilitate the movement of containers to factory gates.
Officials at BTMA said the annual cotton demand of Bangladesh is nearly 6.7 million bales, of which 3.5 million bales come from India and with the majority by sea.
Bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India is more than $6 billion and highly tilted towards New Delhi. In fiscal year 2015 to 2016 Bangladesh exported $689 million in goods to India while importing $5.5 billion.
Bangladesh mainly exports woven garments, knitwear, home textile, agri-products, frozen food, leather and leather products, footwear, raw jute, jute goods, and bicycle. Bangladesh imports mainly cotton, cotton yarn, cotton fabrics, vehicles, nuclear reactor, boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances, cereals, edible vegetables, iron, and steel.