Bangladesh should work on improving the capacity of its premier seaport to be able to handle the growing export and import activities in the next 5-10 years, analysts said yesterday.
The number of container ships and the flow of containers to Chittagong port will almost double to 2,200 in the next five years, they said.
By that time, the traffic flow on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway will rise by 60 percent, said Forrest Cookson, an economist and a consultant of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
Inflows through land ports will more than double while air cargo will grow by at least three times in seven years, he said while presenting a keynote paper on “Logistics: challenges and solutions” at a seminar.
“All of these have to be accomplished with the major facilities that we have in hand. There is not enough time to build new deep sea container handling ports,” he said.
“There is not enough time to build a new airport or another road linking Chittagong and Dhaka.”
“Problems are urgent and immediate actions should be taken,” Cookson said at the event organised by the International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) at Brac Centre Inn, Dhaka.
Cookson said the Chittagong port has 16 berths for container ships and three of the berths have been operating gantry cranes while another three are being installed.
The port will be able to handle 1,250 vessels when the six cranes will start operating, he said, adding that the port can manage 1,100 to 1,200 container vessels a year.
Cookson suggested that gantry cranes be installed in all the 16 berths so that the Chittagong port can handle the growing number of vessels and increased container flow.
A bay side terminal with 14 berths and cranes should be built, said Cookson, also a former president of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Bangladesh.
Traffic on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway will increase because of the ban on slow vehicles and a cut in access to the main highway, he said.
The air cargo services should be improved as a growing number of apparel exporters are now shipping their goods through the air, he said.
Bangladesh has no choice other than developing its logistics systems, which will face tremendous pressure if the country wants to continue growing, he said.
Khondaker Golam Moazzem, research director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue, stressed on the need for ensuring governance in the overall logistics system.
“We have to come out from the overdependence on roads for logistics. We have to improve rail and inland waterways to develop a multimodal system.”
He suggested linking waterways and railways with the special economic zones.
A comprehensive plan is needed, said Nazneen Ahmed, senior research fellow of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies.
The Chittagong port has progressed a lot over the past decade, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said at the event.
An automation system has been developed and over 200 equipment have been procured to improve the performance of the port, he said.
He said three cranes have already been delivered and three will be delivered within this month.
“We expect that we will be able to procure 10 cranes by this year.”
Khan said construction of a new terminal at Patenga has started and steps have been taken to acquire land for establishing a Bay terminal.
The government has taken steps to improve draft of the channel and other facilities at Mongla port, he said.
“We have also decided to buy a crane for the Mongla port.”
Dredging in the channel to Paira port is going to start soon, he said, adding that the government also plans to establish another port at Moheshkhali in Chittagong.
Container handling at Pangaon terminal is increasing, he said, adding that the government also plans to establish land ports in hilly districts.
Humayun Rashid, the IBFB president, and MS Siddiqui, vice president, also spoke among others.