A ship carrying 185 Ashok Leyland trucks was flagged off by Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari from Chennai port on Saturday.
The ship is expected to reach Bangladesh’s Mongla port in five days, against the 20-25 days it takes to transport trucks by road. Ashok Leyland’s exports to Bangladesh have risen to 6,000 trucks from 500 over the last few decades.
“There are problems on the border, including delays, so we have decided to explore the sea, which also helps to control damage and reduce pollution,” said Ashok Leyland's Managing Director Vinod K Dasari. He declined to comment on issues faced on the land border.
Petrapol, 80 km from Kolkata, is the gateway for the India-Bangladesh land trade. It is a single lane road and 350 trucks are cleared from the Indian side and 80 from Bangladesh every day.
Exporters say at least 3,500 Indian trucks wait on any given day to cross the border. Trucks have to wait for almost 10 days before they find parking at Petrapol. While the Bongaon municipality accommodates 1,200 trucks, the rest are at the mercy of private parking lots, where contractors charge a fee of Rs 4,000 for seven days. The last 5 km journey to the border, which should take a few hours, takes around 10 days.
Ashok Leyland’s decision to use the sea route will open up a new avenue for exporters to send cargoes to Bangladesh.
An executive with a shipping company that transports Ashok Leyland’s trucks said the cost saving would be 20-40 per cent if the trucks are sent by coastal shipping. India and Bangladesh in 2015 agreed for cargo movement through coastal shipping.