The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) and the Government of Bangladesh have signed a formal memorandum of understanding (MoU) agreeing a framework for technical cooperation in digitalising border procedures at the country’s Bhomra Land Port.
The MoU was signed by Alliance Director Philippe Isler and Ms. Fatima Yasmin, Secretary of Economic Relations Division, Ministry of Finance, on June 20, 2022.
The manual processing of routine tasks such as verifying relevant documents at the border, generating bills, and collecting payments creates extensive delays at this busy crossing with India, with more than 450 trucks a day on average – many of them carrying perishable goods – forced to wait as long as five hours for clearance.
The Alliance, through its implementing partner, Swisscontact, has begun working with the Bangladesh Land Port Authority, an independent body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping, and private sector stakeholders, including the Customs Clearing & Forwarding Agents Association, to digitalise and streamline border processes at the busy crossing.
The Alliance is evaluating the current manual, paper-based system to determine the most suitable solutions before supporting the introduction of new IT systems to automate port procedures. It is preparing a roadmap outlining a digitalisation process and working with public and private sector users to coordinate the new procedures.
The project will target a range of border procedures for digitalisation and the capacity building of the relevant stakeholders. Additionally, it will explore introducing e-payment options, such as inter-bank- transfers and payment using mobile apps.
Modernising procedures at Bhomra Land Port is expected to reduce average clearing times to 90 minutes – a 50% reduction. Introducing e -payment options to facilitate transactions outside of normal business hours would lead to even greater time and cost savings.
In helping to provide suitable training and raising awareness of the new services, the Alliance will focus on improving the working environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) many of them women-owned but who are under-represented in both the public and private sectors at land ports.
“This MoU marks a major step in the progress towards implementing this project,” Philippe Isler said. “It reflects a clear commitment by the Government of Bangladesh to realising its WTO Trade Facilitation Agreement commitments by streamlining its border processes.”
The project is scheduled for completion in 20 months.