Truck drivers are used to spending a lot of time at Bhomra Land Port on Bangladesh’s border with India – it can take imports almost five hours to clear customs there on any given day. Everything from verifying a driving licence and vehicle registration to generating bills and collecting payment are handled manually.
The delays and costs to traders incurred by paper-based processes are worsened further by the time-consuming process of a trip to the bank to pay service fees and taxes to the Bhomra Land Port Authority (BLPA) or Bangladesh Customs. And the bank operates limited hours on most days and is closed entirely on Fridays and Saturdays.
As a result, more than 400 trucks a day on average are parked up for hours at this crossing, which is only 60km from the northern Indian metropolis of Kolkata. Many of these trucks are delivering perishable goods predominantly sold by micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and women-led businesses.
The Alliance is working with BLPA, an independent body under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping (MoS), to digitalise and streamline border processes. This is projected to lead to a dramatic improvement: an average reduction in clearing times from 4 hours, 50 minutes to just 32 minutes.
However, the actual time saved may be between one and three days, thanks in part to the use of digital services, including ePayment options to facilitate transactions outside of normal banking hours.
And it isn’t only customers of Bhomra Land Port that are likely to benefit: MoS and BLPA are aiming to develop an ‘ideal digitalised model’ that can be replicated across the other 22 Bangladesh land ports.
What are we doing
The Alliance is working with BLPA and other public and private sector stakeholders to build out the software and digital capacity at Bhomra Land Port.
The Alliance is evaluating the current manual, paper-based system to determine the most suitable solutions and implementing new hardware and software to automate the port’s IT systems. It will then begin preparing a road map outlining a digitalisation process and work with the public and private sector users to coordinate IT systems.
The project will likely target a range of border procedures for digitalisation, aiming for at least seven out of eight procedures. Additionally, it will explore e-payment options, such as inter-bank- transfers or payment using mobile apps.
Finally, we will work to provide training and raise awareness of the new services, focusing on increased transparency at the border, with particular emphasis on improving the working environment for women, who are sparsely represented in both the public and private sectors at land ports.
Digitalising services at the Bhomra Land Port is projected to reduce processing times dramatically for both importers and exporters, with the aim of:
- saving time and cost for the private sector, mostly MSMEs and some large domestic companies that trade through the port
- enabling a better trade environment for perishable goods and products such as fish, vegetables, flowers, fruits, and fertilisers
- increasing coordination and cooperation among public and private sector stakeholders in trade facilitation reforms to make border procedures more efficient and transparent
- promoting paperless trading practices without requiring significant investment from public and private sector stakeholders
The Alliance will conduct a baseline study during Phase One of the project and similar assessments every six months to chart progress. Finally, near the end of the project, an external evaluation will quantify outcomes and impacts.
The project is expected to take 20 months and will be completed in three phases.
Digitalisation of border procedures
Introduction of e-payment options
Capacity development, consultation meetings, mass communications, and awareness-raising programmes
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