What were the reasons behind containers jam in Chittagong seaport recently?
No ship was allowed into the port for one and half days when the cyclone Mora hit the country. There were about 30,000 TEUs containers inside the port creating the congestion. But the crisis was temporary. There was no congestion of containers during the past one year. I have extended space for 10,000 more TUEs, which allows more containers into the port. The annual growth of Chittagong port is 15.9% while RMG sector growth is 0.20%. This is not true that growth of RMG sector is declining for Chittagong port congestion.
But why did finance minister want to cancel the licences of 18 inland container depots at the Chittagong port?
Now the private ICDs can handle 2.5m TEUs of containers, increasing from the initial number of 1.0m TEUs. The ICDs handle 100% of our exports and 20% of our imports. But they didn’t purchase land and procure equipment for last 10 years to improve container handling. Finance minister was right to think of cancelling licences of inefficient private ICDs as having inefficient ICDs results in an inefficient port.
Do private ICDs create congestion in the port areas?
In Chittagong port, twenty-three per cent of imports go through the ICDs. But around 4,000 to 5,000 of lorries come to ICDs through the port, contributing hugely to congestion in and around the port. if the containers go straight to the ICDs, the covered vans will not need to come inside the port.
Do you agree with the businessmen that delay in loading goods cost them additionally?
Such delay can increase the cost of doing business. So, the delivery time should be less. Today we have 30,000 TEUs of containers inside the port. The owners of them are importers and exporters. We expect the delivery time of most containers should be within four days though it’s not happening. During Ramadan the situation got worse. But we kept the port open for 10 days during the last Eid holidays.
Are you frustrated at the overall situation of the Chittagong port?
No. Rather, I have become highly optimistic because of the activities of the port users. The port users are giving helpful suggestions and feedback. Media criticism is constructive. I am very optimistic about the Chittagong port and it will help the government to achieve the Vision 2021.
Prime minister asked for keeping the Chittagong port open for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Have you found any way to do it?
We are working round the clock for improvement of the port service despite our limitations. We need concerted efforts to achieve that goal.
When will scanners be installed in the Chittagong port, which is already late by a year?
This is not our responsibility. There are currently five scanners installed by the NBR Customs Department. But more scanners are necessary for smooth operation of the port.
The port capacity is said to have not increased in line with the rise in exports and imports. What are the authorities doing to increase the port capacity?
There are short, medium and long-term plans for development of the port. They are related with each other. If all three plans are not properly executed, it is likely to have negative impacts on the capacity and productivity of the port. I need support from shipping ministry and parliamentary committee to increase capacity.
We already approved procurement of equipment for new mooring container terminal of Chittagong port. We have had rubber gantry cranes and free container removers.
Around 20 equipment have already reached the Chittagong port which will be installed in the Patenga terminal. We will procure six more gantry cranes. The proposal has been placed at the government’s purchase committee.
Operation of geared vessels got started, which have their own crane facilities. It will take three months time to prepare two gantry cranes. More, we hope to procure two bigger mobile harbour cranes as soon as possible.
What will be the shape of the Chittagong port in 2020?
In the first phase, we will build a 1,750-metre multi-purpose terminal and a 1,100-metre container terminal with back up facilities and a breakwater as we plan to set up a bay terminal. It is in the first track projects as we target to achieve $50bn annual export by 2021.
First phase of the bay terminal project will be complete in 2021. The tender for 1,000-metre multi-purpose terminal has been floated under public and private partnership.
Four jetties at Karnaphuli Terminal built during British period will be rebuilt with ADB funds. Bangladesh army will implement the project in 2019.