Congestion pulls down growth rate to five-year low

GDP growth rate for Bangladesh in FY 2018-19
Star file photo of Chittagong port

Chittagong port handled about 2.56 million twenty-foot equivalent units of import, export and empty containers last year, up 9.36 percent from a year ago, despite prolonged congestion.

According to Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) data, 2017's container handling growth rate was the lowest in the last five years.

Port users blamed prolonged vessel and container congestion throughout the year for this poor show. They said shortage of jetty, yard and equipment facilities at the port pushed the growth rate down.

CPA data showed the country's premier maritime port posted nearly 16 percent and 17 percent growth in container handling in 2016 and 2015 respectively. Container handling grew 9.6 percent in 2013.

Mahbubul Alam, chairman of the Port Users' Forum, held the lack of efficiency and poor capacity of the port for the slow growth.

"No new jetty has been constructed at the port since 2007 though the volume of transported containers more than doubled during the period," said Alam, also the president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

He said the port urgently needs new terminals with modern jetties and equipment to increase its efficiency and capacity.

Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of the standing committee on port and shipping of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, also echoed Alam.

The drawn-out congestion last year put the record number of container vessels waiting at the outer anchorage, he said.

On an average, 15 to 20 vessels had to wait for 12 to 15 days at the outer anchorage before getting berth at the port jetties.

"No container vessel should wait for a single day at the outer anchorage," said Chowdhury. CPA Secretary Omar Faruq said the container handling was disrupted because of incessant rains and cyclonic storms.

He, however, said the decision to keep the port, customs and other related services open for 24 hours following the prime minister's instruction in July improved the situation a lot in the second half of the year.


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