Container shipping lines and port operators are seeking a change in the bilateral coastal shipping agreement signed between India and Bangladesh to permit transshipment of Bangladesh cargo from Indian ports.

The India-Bangladesh coastal shipping agreement covers only origin-destination cargo between the two neighbouring countries.

“We have started discussions with authorities in Bangladesh to allow transshipment of their cargo from Indian ports,” Capt Deepak Tiwari, Chairman of the Container Shipping Lines Association (CSLA), said. “Chittagong port in Bangladesh is heavily congested; so why not take advantage of that,” he said.

The Shipping Ministry will separately pursue an amendment to the pact, a Shipping Ministry official said.

Garment cargo from Bangladesh is currently sent to the UK via the transshipment hubs of Colombo or Singapore.

Recently, India denied request from a major UK-based retailer to transship its garment cargo from Bangladesh through Chennai as this was not allowed in the coastal shipping agreement, the Ministry official said.

“There is a case for re-visiting the bilateral coastal shipping agreement signed between India and Bangladesh to include transshipment cargo as well,” said Vinita Venkatesh, director, Krishnapatnam Port Container Terminal Pvt Ltd.

To facilitate transshipment, Chennai Customs has issued a notice stating that coastal vessels will now get Import General Manifest (IGM)/ Export General Manifest (EGM) rotation number for transshipment containers.

Chennai Customs has also given green signal to sea-air transshipment of cargo from Chennai to West Asia based on a proposal from Orient Shipping Line. Besides, the Chennai Customs is evaluating the possibility of allowing transloading (re-stuffing into new containers) of Bangladesh garment cargo for an exporter who wants to transship the cargo to UK via Chennai instead of Singapore, the Ministry official said.