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Cargo movement on Indo

Aug 31, 2023

Local vessels transported a lower number of cargoes between India and Bangladesh in the fiscal year 2022-23 than the previous year because of a decline in imports, particularly fly ash and raw materials of cement mills.

Cargoes carried by the vessels of Bangladesh and India between the two neighbouring nations declined 13 percent year-on-year to 41 lakh tonnes in FY23, down from the previous year's 47 lakh tonnes, the highest on the record, shows data of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).

This was the first time in four years that the cargo movement through waterways under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit & Trade between Bangladesh and India (PIWT&T) fell.

Convenience and relatively lower cost than road encouraged many businesses to prefer waterways to transport their goods, mainly imports from India, importers and carrier operators said earlier.

Operators said most of the cargoes transported through waterways are imports and raw materials for the cement and the steel factories -- fly ash, iron ore -- while food grains are some other major items.

"Our raw materials imports have declined because of the negative growth of the overall cement industry in the last one year. Public construction projects have slowed along with the demand for construction in the private sector," said Md Alamgir Kabir, president of Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association.

Import of fly ash declined too for increased use of slag as mills are gradually moving toward vertical roller mills, said Alamgir, also a vice-chairman of MI Cement Factory Ltd.

Data of the BIWTA showed that cargo carried by Bangladeshis and Indian vessels dropped in the last fiscal year with local vessels carrying 92 percent of total goods under the Indo-Bangla protocol routes.

The number of trips by vessels dropped also, according to data.

"We used to get a voyage a month. Now we have to wait for up to two months to get a trip," said Nazmul Hossain Hamdu, managing director of Sohag Trading Company, which carries goods under the Indo-Bangla protocol routes.

He blamed the shortage of dollars in the banks.

"Imports declined as businesses could not open the letters of credit owing to dollar crunch," Hamdu said, adding that the fall in voyages affected shipping businesses.

K Saiful Alam Miru, proprietor of Nexus Corporation, another carrier, said local vessels mainly carry cargoes imported from India.

"We load most of the goods from Kolkata and Haldia," he said. "Our export through waterways is negligible."