A new route has been launched to ensure quicker airfreight shipments of finished apparel goods to the European Union from Bangladesh. Export garments can now be trucked from Dhaka to Kolkata International Airport in India for onward shipment.

The program was launched because of a shortage of equipment, lift and storage at Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA).

The current transit time from Dhaka to Europe for air cargo is up to five days (depending on the season), moving the Bangladesh cargo via Kolkata takes only three days.  Shipping charges are also reduced by about 30 per cent, according to local sources.

There were also problems at the capital’s international airport in 2018, when direct airfreight shipments from Bangladesh to the UK were suspended because of inadequate security screening.

Under the new arrangement, apparel is transported by Bangladeshi trucks to the Benapole land port located in western Bangladesh near Kolkata. Goods are then loaded onto Indian trucks, which carry transshipment cargo to the Kolkata Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport from where it is airfreighted to the EU.

Emirates and Qatar Airways are currently carrying Bangladeshi garments from Kolkata to Europe. The transshipment arrangement is part of a bilateral trade initiative between the governments of Bangladesh and India.

During the six-month pilot period, which started in January 2019, there will be three cargo flights weekly; frequency could be gradually increased based on the success of the operation.

More than 1000 metric tons of goods need airfreighting every day at HSIA. Export garments account for approximately 90 per cent of the shipments. However, current air cargo capacity is only 700-800 metric tons per day.

This shortfall in lift has led to calls for another trucking route to be opened.

“We are lobbying the governments of both Bangladesh and India to introduce truck services between Dhaka and Delhi to carry goods to the Indira Gandhi International Airport (for onward shipment to Europe),” Arvind Aggarwal, senior manager for business development of Celebi Delhi Cargo Terminal Management India told bdapparelnews.com.

The route could be approved once the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) comes into effect. The Agreement will make the movement of freight between the two countries easier to arrange. Trial runs for cargo vehicles under the MVA were conducted along the Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala and Delhi-Kolkata-Dhaka routes in 2018.