Maersk Line has opened cross-border inland water connectivity for freight movement between India and Bangladesh, further propelling its logistics prowess in the subcontinent.
The carrier, in a statement, said it has successfully completed a container-on-barge trial operation with a consignment of 50 TEU loaded from Kolkata to Dhaka, using the contours of a bilateral government trade protocol in place for short-sea services along the Bay of Bengal.
“The cargo movement on inland waterways or rivers is much more reliable, especially in monsoons, when the turbulent weather can cause delays while transporting goods over the ocean,” Maersk said. “Moreover, with the ocean network running under capacity pressure, the alternative inland waterways route that is quicker and more reliable has received a warm welcome from shippers.”
Maersk believes that short-sea connectivity also helps address trade concerns over bottlenecks at the land-border crossings on both sides, as bilateral trade volumes expand.
“The Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route has created great trade opportunities for the two countries over the last decades,” said Vikash Agarwal, Maersk’s managing director for South Asia. “By advancing into containerised transport on this route, we are expanding the opportunities for importers and exporters from the two countries with a faster, more reliable and safer option for their cargo.”
Angshuman Mustafi, head of Maersk Bangladesh, noted: “Our solution to move cargo across the Indo-Bangladesh border has a saving of over 60% in terms of transit time. In addition to the faster mode of transport, we are able to give end-to-end visibility to our customers through Daily Status Reports, which give a comparison between the estimated timelines against actual timelines. The negligible variations in these comparisons prove high reliability and have been thoroughly appreciated by our customers.”
Maersk also noted that it piloted the alternative barge mode for freight booked by its client Coca-Cola Bangladesh Beverages.
Soumyendu Sen Sarma, director (Finance) at Coca-Cola Bangladesh Beverages, said: “The maiden barge voyage has been successfully executed where there has been a significant reduction of transit time.”
Sarma added: “The delivery schedule of the cargo, which used to be routed through the transhipment hub and then arrive in Chittagong and further to the destination, used to be impacted severely with delays. The speed of delivery with the new solution offered by Maersk over inland waterways is going to be extremely beneficial for us.”
Amid ongoing disruptions in Sri Lanka’s Colombo Port, which handles the bulk of transhipment volumes out of the region, industry observers believe that Maersk’s barge service could also help Bangladeshi shippers to seek alternative mainline options over Indian ports, particularly in the Chennai region.