Bangladeshi shippers are viewing India’s Haldia port as an alternative to sea-based Port of Chittagong, due to the latter's massive congestion, which seriously hampers their business during the April to October period almost every year.
Dhaka-based businessmen, primarily, are keen on using Haldia, via sending or receiving containers through coastal routes, as inland container terminals (ICTs) will facilitate the voyage. In this instance, Haldia will be used as a transhipment port to receive or send containers to and from Colombo or Singapore by feeder vessels from mother vessels staying there.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) president Abul Kasem Khan said sending a container from Dhaka directly to Haldia port increases the transport cost by $200 but saves a significant amount of time.
No mother vessels can call at either Chittagong port or Haldia port, due to a low draft. Vessels with 9.5 meter (31 foot) draft can call on Chittagong port while up to 8 meter draft vessels can access Haldia port.
The DCCI will soon submit a proposal to the government so that Bangladeshi businesses can use Haldia as a transhipment port. The port can be used under Bangladesh-India Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade.
Several ICTs have been built near Dhaka to carry goods through waterways, instead of already congested highways. Container-laden vessels are regularly calling on the state-built Pangaon ICT from Chittagong port and other Indian ports under a coastal shipping agreement.
Months ago, a high-level meeting, which included Bangladesh’s Finance Minister AMA Muhith and Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, regarding how to make Pangaon ICT more widely operational and reduce Chittagong congestion, also discussed using the Haldia port via Bangladeshi shippers.
In addition, private sector conglomerate Summit Group also built an ICT near Dhaka. Summit’s chief operating officer Kamrul Islam Mazumder told JOC.com that sending a container abroad through Chittagong from Dhaka takes seven to eight days due to highway, off-docks, and seaport congestion.
“It will take five days to send the container by Haldia port abroad from Dhaka. Saving two to three days is a big help for apparel makers who always lack lead time,” he said.
The Summit Alliance Port Limited has leased Kolkata’s Garden Reach terminal for 30 years and will start operation in 2019.
“There is no congestion in Haldia port like the Chittagong seaport. They are seeking foreign shippers to use the port,” said Mazumder.
Currently, Dhaka-based shippers transport goods mainly by trucks to the off-docks, where they are packed in containers before being sent to the Chittagong port for boarding on feeder vessels towards mother vessels in Colombo or Singapore.
In 2017, Chittagong handled 2.56 million TEU, good for a 9.36 percent growth rate; in 2016, it handled 2.34 million TEU, or a 17 percent growth rate. The port’s capacity is 1.7 million TEU.
Haldia port handled 117,000 TEU containers during the first three quarters of India’s fiscal year 2017/18, up from 89,000 TEU in the same period of 2016. In terms of tonnage, the port handled 34 million tonnes of cargo in fiscal 2016/17. The port’s tonnage capacity is 70 million tonnes.
Haldia is part of the Kolkata Port Trust, one of India’s 12 major publicly owned gateways. The Kolkata dock is on the eastern bank of the Hooghly River, about 120 nautical miles from the sea, while the Haldia dock is farther downstream.
Kolkata and Haldia essentially operate as feeder ports, meaning they send and receive domestic cargo routed through other hub ports in the region, as their draft limitations have kept mainline carriers at bay.