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Operations to overshoot capacity at Chittagong port in 2018

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Publication date : 24 August, 2017 

Operations to overshoot capacity at Chittagong port in 2018

SHAMSUDDIN ILLIUS, Ctg

Media: The Independent

Original URLOperations to overshoot capacity at Chittagong port in 2018

E-paper  URL: Operations to overshoot capacity at Chittagong port in 2018

 

The number of containers handled at Chittagong port is growing by 15–22 per cent every year, but the port is running its operations with the same numbers of jetties it had 10 years back.

Even worse, the New Mooring Container Terminals (NCTs) built in 2007 cannot run in full swing due to the lack of apparatus. Though the number of jetties has remained the same since 2007, Chittagong port handled only 0.9 million units of TUEs (twenty foot equivalent) of container at that time. That number reached 2.4 million in 2016.

Since the efficiency of Chittagong port has not been developed in line with its growth, exporters and importers are incurring huge losses due to the current container vessel congestion.

The exporters said they are not being able to ship their goods on time. They said they are falling behind their rivals from other countries. Moreover, the crisis is costing them their capacity and image.

The importers said they are incurring huge losses, as they are counting demurrage for container vessels overstaying at the port. Sometimes perishable goods are getting damaged.

“Though we have asked the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) for a new jetty and yards several times, it has not paid any heed,” said Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and chairman of the Port Users’ Forum.

“Everything about building a jetty and yards has been limited to assurance. There is no other way to increase the capacity of the port. The CPA should build a yard on a priority basis to ease the crisis,” said Alam.

In a meeting with port users and stakeholders last month, CPA chairman Rear Admiral Khaled Iqbal said, “To develop the capacity of Chittagong port and to reduce the crisis of the jetty, many decisions have been taken. These are the Patenga Container Terminal by 2019, the Laldia Container Terminal by 2020, and the first phase of Bay terminal by 2021.”

Chittagong is the principal port of Bangladesh. It handles 92 per cent of the country’s booming export-import trade.

HPC Hamburg Port Consulting GmbH, a German company, has designed a 30-year master plan for Chittagong port which was unveiled in 2015. It forecast that if the growth remains constant till 2016, the present structure of goods loading and unloading would be enough at Chittagong port. If the CPA runs the NCT in full swing by adding the required equipment, CPA can tackle the pressure of container handling until 2017.

But from 2018, the CPA will have to deal with more goods than it can with its current capacity. So, this firm has suggested the construction of three key terminals before 2019. Research says that the port will reach 2.7 million Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit (TUEs) by 2020, 4.4 million TUEs by 2025, and 5.1 million TUEs by 2030.

Port users said that in the last 10 years, the CPA chairman has not paid any heed to this. Instead, he has paid more attention to unnecessary issues like buying reconditioned vessels for carrying goods, constructing water-treatment plants, buying ambulance ships, and the construction of an auditorium, they alleged.

According to the CPA, there are 18 jetties. Of these, four NCTs were built in 2007 for Tk.700 crore. Construction started in 2004. But the CPA spent seven years to take a decision on adding equipment. In October 2015, without any sophisticated equipment, the CPA started operating the NCTs. The CPA is conducting operations with the help of four Granty Cranes at two of the NCTs where gearless vessels berth. Two Granty cranes were damaged following an accident during the berthing of a vessel on June 25, 2017. In 1986, the Chittagong Container Terminal (CCT) was built at Chittagong port. Before the independence of Bangladesh, there were 12 jetties at Chittagong port. The 12 jetties are losing their utility continuously. These were repaired way back in 1979. Some of the jetties are now broken and some are still in operation. The CPA has to deal with the continuous growth with the limited number of jetties.

MA Latif, MP and the chairman of the standing committee of the shipping ministry, had blamed the CPA earlier for not paying attention to increasing the capacity of the port. He said that the exporters and importers are the worst sufferers.

“Though cargo pressure is increasing, the infrastructure has not been developed. In the last 45 years, only seven berths have been built for the port. But it should have had 70 berths in this period. The capacity of the port has not been increased since 2007,” said Latif.

He said due to the yard and jetty crisis, the time of overstay of ships has been increasing. “There is a lack of space at the port for containers after these are unloaded from the vessels. If the yards are built, businessmen will suffer less,” added Latif. Vessels that can float in a draught of up to 9.5 metres can berth at the terminal, just like the port jetties, said the CPA.

Shamsuddin Illius
Shamsuddin Illius is a print and online media journalist. He has been working in the field (fulltime) of journalism since 2010. He is very much passionate about journalism since his early age. Currently he is the Bureau Chief-Chittagong at The Business Standard.

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