Import of sponge iron from India begins through river route

With cross-border trade slowing down at Petrapole-Benapole border due to coronavirus, a consignment of nearly 1,100 tonnes of sponge iron has left for Bangladesh using the river route from Kolkata to Narayanganj for the first time, an official said today.

“The first vessel carrying 1,098 tonnes of sponge iron and quartz sailed from GR jetty in Kolkata and will reach Narayanganj within the next 7-8 days,” Sagar Khastagir, assistant general manager of Bangladeshi port operator Summit Alliance, said in Kolkata.

Summit Alliance is working at two jetties of Inland Waterways Authority in Kolkata.

The consignment of the same quantity of sponge iron and quartz would have required 55 trucks to transport by road, he said.

Khastagir said that among the reasons for choosing the river route are congestion at Chittagong Port and slow pace of cargo movement through the Petrapole check-post in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.

“We are exploring this new route to export cargo to Bangladesh. If this is successfully delivered, we will use this [riverine] route regularly,” said Bunty Agarwal, director of Bunty Overseas, the exporter of sponge iron.

“If it works smoothly, the ease of sending goods would encourage other exporters to choose the rive route because bulk cargo can reach in a single consignment,” he added.

Nearly 50 percent of India’s sponge iron is exported to Bangladesh which uses it mostly in steel mills in the country, industry sources in India said.

India’s sponge iron exports to Bangladesh rose from 67,124 tonnes in 2018 to 8,54,251 tonnes in 2019 on the back of rising steel melting capacities in Bangladesh.

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