© Oleg Kachura

Inditex appears to be the first shipper to use a new land-air corridor out of Bangladesh via India, following a bilateral agreement.

The first freighter service, a 747-8F operated by Atlas Air, departed from Delhi Airport on Monday for Zaragoza in Spain, where Inditex has a logistics centre, carrying some 124mt of cargo.

The consignment was mainly ready-made garments (RMG), the mainstay of Bangladesh’s export trade, which has expanded market share as global importers increasingly search for alternative markets to doing business with China. Booked RMG exports from Bangladesh for the first half are up 15.5%, year on year.

The first transhipment move, from Bangladesh to Delhi, involved a five-day journey by road, using a fleet of some 20 trucks, according to industry sources.

The shipment followed a trial, handled by Delhi Air Cargo on 3 March, under the cross-border transhipment arrangement. The Indian transhipment connectivity is a big boost for Bangladesh exporters that are reeling under direct/reliable supply chain constraints. Delhi Airport has expansive international flight connections and wider market reach than Dhaka.

However, for the coming month, the cost of land transport in Bangladesh is expected to spike as Ramadan begins. Yesterday, trucking rates in Chittagong increased between 40% and nearly 100%.

Chowdhury Zafar Ahmed, secretary general of the Bangladesh Covered Van-Truck-Prime Mover Goods Transport Owners Association, said some truckers were now charging up to $450 for a Chittagong-Dhaka trip, up from about $240.

He added that trucks and covered vans were now charging about $200 to carry cargo to Dhaka, or garment district Narayanganj, from Chittagong, compared with $150 yesterday.

“The supply of export cargo is now very scant. Some truckers are now charging two-way rates, [backhaul and fronthaul] despite carrying goods only one way,” he added.

Ramadan in Bangladesh begins this evening and ends on 20 April, when rates are expected to fall again.

Road access between India and Bangladesh has seen significant improvement, thanks to a 1.9-km bridge over the Feni River that now connects Sabroom (Tripura) in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh, providing a shorter and more economical alternate route.

Transhipping Bangladesh cargo by sea and air routes could also bump up cargo volumes for Indian gateways, bolstering New Delhi’s goal of regional trade hub development.

Vineet Malhotra, co-founder and director at Kale Logistics Solutions, told The Loadstar the Delhi air corridor presented considerable growth potential for the Bangladesh export industry, adding that the Indian air cargo industry was on the cusp of major development and transformation because of a heavier government focus on airport expansion.

“India is currently the seventh-largest civil aviation market in the world and is expected to become the third-largest within the next 10 years,” he noted. “Airlines operating out of India are now finding it more viable to carry cargo and increase their supply of freighters with dedicated infrastructure and digital platforms like air cargo community systems in place.”

Mumbai Airport has reported a near 30% increase in overall cargo volumes this year, with international freight up 26% and domestic shipments up 40%. Bangalore Airport has also seen strong cargo growth, emerging as the top perishables handler in the country.

You can reach the writer at [email protected].

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