Press Briefing on “Boosting Bangladesh-India Bilateral Trade: Are Benapole and Petrapole Land Ports Ready to take the Challenges?”

Boosting Bangladesh-India Bilateral Trade: Are Benapole and Petrapole Land Ports Ready to take the Challenges?

Key Presenter: Dr. Selim RaihanDSC_0007

Approximately 80% of land trade between India and Bangladesh passes through the Benapole and Petrapole land ports, making this junction one of the largest land ports in Asia by trade volume. Well-functioning business operation facilities and support systems at these land ports are essential to deepening connectivity between these two South Asian economic powers. The Petrapole check post accounts for more than half of India’s total trade of $4 billion with Bangladesh, nearly double the trade volume with Pakistan. An average of 350 trucks enters into Bangladesh every day from India, whereas only 70-80 trucks enter into India from Bangladesh. Private-sector traders complain about delays stemming from burdensome processes, inconvenient operating hours, and insufficient human resources of border agencies. This study is conducted by South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) in collaboration with USAID Asia & Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices Project (AMEG), BTFA to assess business needs at these aforementioned priority ports. The survey was carried out during July 2017. SANEM surveyed more than 100 representatives from Government and private stakeholders of Bangladesh and India.

Benapole Land Port
As per a recent regulation, the Benapole Land Port is supposed to be active 24 hours a day, 7 days a week starting on August 1, 2017. However, a different scenario was observed during this study’s survey period in the month of July 2017, where the port was closed for the weekend on Fridays. Besides operating hours, the Benapole Land Port faces many challenges in its existing business operations that hamper bilateral trade between Bangladesh and India. During the time of the survey, it was found that the official business operation hours at Benapole land port were six days per week, from 9 am to 5 pm. Friday was observed as the weekend. However, there was a difference between official/documented working hours, and actual or effective business operation hours. In practice, work started at 10 a.m., and after 2 p.m., no trucks or consignments were unloaded or released. Thus, the effective working hours in practice were from 10 am to 2 pm, which means that instead of eight hours a day working hours, this port was effective only for four hours per day.
The study found that storage capacity at Benapole is around 40,000 metric tons (MT) at a time, significantly lower than the demand. Around 100,000 MT of products are stored in warehouses situated in nearby localities; due to space limitations, trucks are often kept in open spaces and even consignments are stored in open spaces, without cover or protection. Moreover, every day, an average of 350 trucks enter Bangladesh, whereas approximately 1,500 trucks wait at Petrapole at the Integrated Check Post (ICP). Currently at Benapole, there are 43 sheds which are very old, poorly structured, and mud-covered. Sheds have been placed on both sides of the road, which is one of the main reasons for traffic jams at the port and each shed has only one gateway which has been used for both entry and exit of vehicles. The roads are narrow and full of common transport vehicles which hinder the passage of trucks with consignments. Thus a big congestion is always there. An exercise for respondents of Benapole was done to capture their responses for 7 broad categories of this study, where the responses were calculated as a percentage with respect to the total respondents. The results are as following:

Business operation Hours: 20% found it adequate, 37% found it unsatisfactory and 43% found it poor.
Infrastructure (equipment, transport and space facilities): 8% respondents found it adequate, 30% found it unsatisfactory and 62% found it poor
Regulatory and administrative procedure: 27% found it adequate, 47% found unsatisfactory and 26% found it poor
Facilities and use of digital and advanced technology: 10% found it adequate, 20% found it unsatisfactory and 70% found it poor
Capacity of the workforce: 22% found it adequate, 48% found it unsatisfactory and 30% found it poor
Social and local conditions: 13% found it adequate, 64% found it unsatisfactory and 23% found it poor

Other facilities (electricity, water, sanitation, ATM etc.): 26% found adequate, 32% found them to be unsatisfactory and 42% found them to be poor.

The major recommendations for the Benapole land port:
 Widening the Roads: The existing road connecting to Petrapole is merely 5.5 meters wide and common transports also travels on this road.
 Improving the Transportation: The existing cargos/trucks of Bangladesh can carry half of the amount of loads compare to the Indian trucks which creates a delay at Petrapole while unloading.
 Space Facilities: There are only 43 warehouses among which 7 are not functioning. To capacitate the trucks and cargos 6o additional warehouses are required.
 Making the Benapole Land Port operational for 24/7 “effectively”: The working hours should be synchronized with the Petrapole Land Port and reducing the time lags of loading and unloading of the cargos
 Incorporating advanced digital and technological facilities such as Risk Management System in the operations of the Benapole port
 Capacity building training and workshop to improve the skills of the existing workforce and recruit additional workforces.

Petrapole Land Port
The Petrapole land port had official operating hours of 24 hours per day, 7 days per week but it is not functioning that way in reality. However, due to a weekend at the Benapole land port, the Petrapole land port also closed on Fridays and from the observation it’s noted that the operation hours were 9.00 am to 8:00 pm in opening days. Trucks and cargos reach at Bongaon in 4-5 days on an average from any part of the India. However, after reaching Bongaon, the struggle begins. It takes on an average 17 days for a truck to reach Benapole which is approximately 10 to 12 km from Bongaon through an ICP. The cost of these 17 days is huge, and in many cases, greater than the costs prior to reaching Bongaon. Usually there are around 3,500 trucks waiting to get cleared; of those, 1,500 trucks are waiting at the Petrapole ICP and the other 2,000 at Bongaon and nearby, privately-owned warehouses under the Bongaon Municipality.
A similar exercise for respondents of Petrapole was done to capture their responses for 7 broad categories of this study, where the responses were calculated in a percentage with respect to the total respondents. The results are as following:

Business operation Hours: 18% found it adequate, 36% found it unsatisfactory and 46% found it poor
Infrastructure (equipment, transport and space facilities): 43% found it adequate, 37% found it unsatisfactory and 20% found it poor
Regulatory and administrative procedure: 27% found it adequate, 45% found it unsatisfactory and 28% found it poor,
Facilities and use of digital and advanced technology: 22% found it adequate, 45% found it unsatisfactory and 33% found it poor
Capacity of the workforce: 13% found it adequate, 40% found it unsatisfactory and 47% found it poor
Social and local conditions: 9% found it adequate, 26% found it unsatisfactory and 65% found it poor,
Other facilities (electricity, water, sanitation, ATM etc.): 41% found it adequate, 52% found it unsatisfactory and 7% found it poor.

The major recommendations for the Petrapole land port:
 Effective Implementation of the Advanced and Integrated Risk Management System at ICP. The present system is sufficiently advance but it lacks proper implementation.
 Capacity building of the workforce : Training and Workshops on improving the skills of utilizing the existing Risk Management System
 Policy Level Advocacy between the Custom House of Benpaole and Petrapole Land Ports and between the Governments.
 Widening the roads and establishing separate road for cargos and trucks. At the moment export-import consignments travel through the similar road where the common transports travel.
 Addressing the social & Local Impediments and controlling the local rent seeking people.