Bangladesh-Thailand trade to quadruple with direct shipping links

DHAKA, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Annual trade between Bangladesh and Thailand could quadruple to $4.8 billion thanks to an agreement on Tuesday to establish direct coastal shipping links between the two countries, a Bangladeshi business leader said.

Goods shipped between the two countries currently pass through Singapore and take two weeks, a time period that should be cut to six days with direct shipping, according to a Thai transport official.

A delegation from Thailand’s port authority arrived in Dhaka on Monday for talks with Bangladesh’s shipping ministry and will visit Chittagong Port on Wednesday for a feasibility study.

“The annual trade volume of Bangladesh and Thailand will be increased four times to $4.8 billion by next five years if both countries can establish direct coastal shipping links by the end of the year,” said Rashed Maksud Khan, president of the Bangladesh-Thai chamber of commerce and industries.

“Once a direct coastal sipping link will be established between Chittagong and Ranong of Thailand, then it will take only six days,” Prajak Sriwatthana of Thailand’s port authority told a news briefing after the meeting.

Ranong port on the Andaman sea will serve to transport goods from Thailand to the ports of Yangon, Chittagong, Kolkata, Chennai and Colombo, he said.

Thai exports to Bangladesh were valued at about $800 million, while Bangladeshi exports to Thailand were estimated at $400 million during the last fiscal year. (Reporting by Serajul Quadir; Editing by Tom Heneghan)