Country’s interests first in accepting foreign investment in Ctg port
The government would first consider the country's interests before accepting any foreign investment in Chattogram port, State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said yesterday.
"We need foreign investment but the government will consider local interests when any country comes forward in this regard," he added.
He was speaking at a roundtable, styled "How Chattogram Port can be turned into a Shipping Regional Hub", organised by English daily The Business Standard (TBS) at its office in Dhaka.
Chowdhury then said along with Chattogram port, the Cox's Bazar airport and Matarbari deep seaport would make up the regional hub.
"We have three internal ports and there are some weaknesses in terms of logistics but we are trying to remove them gradually," he said.
"A lot of development is needed for it and that is why we are talking about foreign investment," he added.
The state minister for shipping went on to say that a large group does not want to set luggage scanners at Chattogram port as they have been repeatedly destroyed within a few days of installation.
While presenting the keynote, Khairul Alam Sujan, vice-president of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said if the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) wants the country's premier seaport to become a regional shipping hub, then more needs to be done than simple infrastructure development.
"We need to conduct paperless trade like Singapore and Colombo," he added.
The port authority has initiated a modern method of cargo handling called the Container Terminal Management System, under which new modules are being added.
Also, the traditional method of discharging goods from the port should not be kept in new terminals in any way.
"Containers are currently opened next to the main jetty and the goods are delivered from there, which does not happen anywhere else in the world," Sujan said.
Rear Admiral Mohammad Shahjahan, chairman of the CPA, said some businesses deliberately keep their containers inside the port to hoard products, which is illegal.
And because of this, the businesses pay a huge amount of foreign currency to the container owner as demurrage fees. As a result, consumers face the final high cost.
"If we could use the port as a transshipment hub, then we would be profitable from both sides. Costs would be reduced for importers while the port authority could earn more by renting space," he said.
Shahjahan then said the government is planning to build a new Bay Container Terminal with the capacity to house 4.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units of containers.
He also mentioned the Matarbari Port Development Project is a fast-track project to strengthen the port logistics capacity of Bangladesh by hinterland connectivity to render an important commercial gateway to South Asian countries as well as to the other parts of the region.
The Matarbari project will be completed by 2026, Shahjahan added.
Mohammed Amirul Haque, managing director of Seacom Group, said they do not want any foreign operator to manage Chattogram port.
"The CPA should utilise domestics resources in this regard," said Haque, also managing director of Premier Cement Mills.
At the event, Captain Kamrul Islam Mazumdar, director of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association, said the CPA should not conduct activities as a regulator and operator at the same time.
Hatem Ali, executive president of the Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association, urged to implement the Bay Terminal project to increase the overall capacity of Chattogram port as it would help achieve the goal to export 100 billion worth of products each year by 2030.
Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, professor of development studies at the University of Dhaka, urged for formulating a master plan for the development of Chattogram port.
Inam Ahmed, editor of TBS, chaired the event, while it was moderated by Sharier Khan, executive editor.