With procurement of cargo handling equipment worth Tk 12 billion and construction of new port jetties and container terminal infrastructure facilities in the pipeline, the Chittagong Port is gearing up to help meet the nation’s goal of fetching US$ 60 billion in export earnings by 2021.
Presently, the national export earning stands at $34.20 billion, but 50 per cent of empty containers are returned from the Chittagong Port, the prime seaport of the country. If the use of these empty containers is ensured, the export earnings will double with optimum utilisation of the existing capacity of containerised cargo handling.
The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) has undertaken a project of construction of 20 jetties and five terminals anew. Of them, the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) with three new jetties, which is being constructed by the Bangladesh Army, is scheduled to be operational by the end of 2019.
CPA Chairman Commodore Zulfiqur Aziz, in an exclusive interview with The Financial Express at his office at Bandar Bhaban recently, talked elaborately on various projects, construction of new jetties and terminals, and steps to remove problems facing the port users — all are aimed at turning the port into a business-friendly one.
Commodore Zulfiqur took over as the CPA Chairman on January 29. Prior to his new assignment, he served the country’s main seaport as a Member (Engineering) for over five years and played a key role in numerous promotional activities of the port.
The CPA chairman said he believes that the port is the custodian of the cargoes and it is the utmost desire of the port to ensure timely delivery of the cargoes to its owners. However, the delivery of cargoes in time also depends on the customs department and the importers. If an importer does not take delivery in right earnest, it leads to congestion of goods in the port yard.
To ensure timely delivery, the port authority has granted four-day free time and it has always been insisting on availing this free time to ease congestion and reduce the cost of doing business through saving the post-free time charges, he said.
Apart from the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT), five other terminal construction projects have been undertaken by the CPA. Of them, Laldia Multipurpose Terminal is expected to be constructed by 2020, Bay Container Terminal by 2021, Karnaphuli Container Terminal by 2022, Sitakunda Container Terminal for Mirsarai Economic Zone by 2023 and Matarbari Port for the coal-based mega power generation plant by 2024.
The port authority has also a plan to construct a strategic floating terminal in the bay and a passenger terminal in Cox’s Bazar. A rail-mounted gantry crane, the first ever RMG crane in the port, is now being installed, which will double the existing capacity of handling the Dhaka ICD-bound containers, the CPA chairman said.
Regarding the progress of Laldia Multipurpose Terminal (LMT) project, the CPA chairman said the project will be implemented on the public-private partnership (PPP) basis. Five global port operators have already been short-listed and asked to submit their Request for Proposal (RFP).
The terms and conditions on how the selected firms will operate the terminal, the extent of productivity of the terminal, the royalty sharing of the Chittagong Port Authority and other related issues have been finalised for the terminal that will have four jetties, he added.
About the Bay Container Terminal, the CPA chairman said land is now being acquired for the terminal and the design for the yard construction is at the final stage of preparation. “We hope the first stage will be completed before June 2019 and it will be ready for commissioning by that time. The port authority has already acquired 68 acres of land. The office of the local district administration has said it has sped up the process of acquiring the remaining land.”
“We will be able to deliver containers from inside this terminal and perform the stuffing and un-stuffing of containers after relocating these activities from the existing yards in the port. These activities now cause congestion of containerised cargoes in the port and hamper the port’s operational activities. They also cause trouble for importers as well,” he said, adding that the port will get sufficient free space once the terminal is built.
About the proposed Sitakunda Terminal, Commodore Zulfiqur Aziz said the project is very crucial for the Mirsarai Special Economic Zone (MSEZ) now being developed by Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA). The Port Authority is now carrying out the feasibility study on the project. A Danish company is conducting the study, the report of which is expected to be submitted by August or September this year.
He said the Port Authority has also expedited the process of procurement of major cargo handling equipment. It has already signed a contract for the procurement of 42 equipment. Six gantry cranes will be added to the port by August 2018 while the shipment of others is in the pipeline. Installation of these equipment will multiply the port’s cargo handling capacity and enhance the quality of service.
The CPA chairman said CPA has constructed five jetties for lighter vessels in the Karnaphuli river in Sadarghat area. It has also issued Notification of Award (NOA) for commissioning the jetties and the final contract with the bidders concerned will be signed this month. The IFT (Invitation for Tender) was issued earlier.
“Besides, we are also constructing one service jetty and four lightering vessel anchorage facilities under a lighter jetty construction project near the Incontrade ICD in Patenga area.”
The CPA chairman said he has focused on three priorities to improve the quality of Chittagong Port services. He is trying to boost the cargo handling capacity, modernise and strengthen the security system in the port area and bring all departments under the IT (Information Technology) network.