Government and private sector pledge support for Bhomra Land Port reforms
Addressing the official launch of the digitalisation of border procedures at Bhomra Land Port in Dhaka this week, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, Bangladesh’s Minister of State for the Ministry of Shipping, stressed the initiative’s importance to the country’s ambitions to increase international trade.
Bhomra Land Port is the nearest border crossing with West Bengal, a market of more than 91 million people. As many as 450 trucks are parked up 24/7 awaiting customs’ clearance. Moving goods across the border in either direction involves completing several sequential, paper-based steps, including inspections, assessments, and payments.
“India is Bangladesh’s second-largest trading partner worldwide, making the location of the Bhomra Land Port even more significant for both countries,” Mr. Chowdhury said. “The digitalisation of Bhomra Land Port will play a crucial role in facilitating trade and fostering alliances with other nations.”
The Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation (the Alliance) is supporting the Bangladesh Land Port Authority (BLPA) to build a digital port management system. It is envisaged that once completed, the system will also be rolled out to every land port in the country.
A major focus of the project involves greater efficiencies for clearing agents, who are responsible for ensuring information moves from one stage of the port process to the next. Currently, this involves filling out documents and transporting them physically between checks, which adds more time and steps than is ideal to complete and deliver the necessary materials for a single shipment.
The Alliance has engaged extensively with BLPA and the local private sector, including the Bhomra C&F Agents’ Association, banks, mobile financial services, and logistics companies to identify the main challenges and to tailor solutions. BLPA Chairman Md. Alamgir told the packed audience that digitalisation would make a dramatic improvement to revenue growth at this strategic land port, emphasising that it would also make a real difference for customers.
“The digitalisation procedure is a top priority for BLPA – it will have a significant impact on reducing time and cost for business,” he said.
Completion of the two-storey Padma Bridge in 2022 had injected even greater urgency into this trade facilitation initiative. The bridge shaves 70km off the journey from Dhaka to Bhomra Land Port. Previously, erratic ferry crossings constituted a physical obstacle for truckers – digitalisation will help ensure that the port does not replace it as the main bottleneck.
The project took a major step forward in 2022 when the Alliance signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Economic Relations Division of the Ministry of Finance. Speaking at the event, Alliance Director Philippe Isler welcomed the strong desire for Government and private sector collaboration on the project and the significant steps already taken to build momentum and trust.
“I have no doubt this project will make cross-border trade more efficient and cost-effective, boosting growth and contributing to inclusive economic development in Bangladesh,” he said.
The presence of high-ranking officials from BAFFA of FIATA, Bhomra C&F Association, bKash Limited (a leading mobile financial service provider), and a2i, or Aspire to Innovate, (a leading digitalisation solution provider) further emphasised the importance of private sector engagement and the contribution of business to the project.