The government is set to construct a deep seaport at Matarbari in Cox's Bazar to help the country handle rising volumes of exports and imports and ease the pressure on the Chattogram port.
The project worth Tk 17,777 crore yesterday got the approval from the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec). Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina presided over the meeting at the NEC conference room in the city's Sher-e-Bangla Nagar.
Once completed in December 2026, Matarbari will be the fourth port in Bangladesh.
Of the estimated cost, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) will put in Tk 12,893 crore and the rest, Tk 2,213 crore, will be borne by the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), Planning Minister MA Mannan told reporters after the meeting.
Export and import activities have increased significantly in recent years, so the country needs a deep seaport to support the growing international trade and the economy, the minister said.
Under the project, a 26.7-kilometre approach road will be constructed. The approach road will be an elevated expressway.
The idea of the deep seaport in Matarbari was conceived after the government started a coal-based power plant project in the area, as a wider channel and a port would be required to bring in the fuel for the plant.
State-owned Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh (CPGCBL) is implementing the Tk 35,984-crore power plant project.
As part of the 1,200 megawatt power plant project on the same site, almost 90 per cent of the work for creating an artificial channel with 14.5-kilometre long, 250-metre width and 18 metres depth has already been completed.
During a visit to Matarbari, it was seen that the world's third-largest cutter suction dredger named Cassiopeia V is busy excavating the channel.
On the northern side of the channel, a 1,750-metre breakwater has been constructed in order to protect the channel from the force of the sea waves and mitigate sedimentation.
The CPA now plans to enhance the width of the channel by 100 metres, as per the requirements of the proposed seaport.
The channel already has a depth of 16 metres and it would be extended by up to 18 metres.
The Karnaphuli channel of the Chattogram port has only 9.5 metres depth, CPA Chairman Rear Admiral Zulfiquer Aziz told The Daily Star recently.
The planned draft of the channel would allow bigger-sized vessels with capacity to carry up to 8,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers to come in, which is four times the capacity of the ships now accommodated at the Chattogram port channel.
The first phase of the port with two terminals -- a 300-metre multipurpose terminal for bulk cargo carriers and a 460-metre container terminal -- would be completed by 2026.
Once the first phase is completed, the port would be able to handle 8 lakh TEUs container annually.
The shipping ministry approved the acquisition of 1,084 acres of land for the deep seaport to be built in two phases, sources said. Another 288.24 acres of land would be acquired later.
Three more container terminals would be set up in the adjoining areas in the second phase, the CPA chief said.
Japanese firm Penta Ocean Construction Company, as the sub-contractor, is implementing the breakwater, channel and land development portions of the project.
The Chittagong port handled 2.89 million TEUs containers in 2019 and its capacity would be at best 5 million TEUs even after the implementation of several ongoing expansion projects, said Chattogram Port Users Forum Chairman Mahbubul Alam.
"The Matarbari port would certainly play a supplementary role in catering to the extra volume of exports and imports in future," he added.
Also at yesterday's Ecnec meeting, the green light was given for construction of a bridge over the Payra river in Patuakhali at a cost of Tk 1,042 crore. The project is due to be completed by December 2025.
The project was undertaken after Shirshendu Biswas, a fourth-grade student in the district, wrote to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina requesting her to construct a bridge over the river in Mirzaganj upazila in 2016.
The meeting also approved the Dhaka Sanitation Improvement Project involving Tk 3,855 crore. Of the fund, the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will jointly provide Tk 2,856 crore.
The project has been undertaken in a bid to develop the sanitation system in selected areas of the city and improve the institutional and operational capacity of the Dhaka Wasa.
Two revised projects also received approval at the meeting.
One of them is aimed at improving nutrition through production of fruits round the year. The project was undertaken in 2015 at a cost of Tk 195 crore. The project's cost was revised up to Tk 460 crore yesterday, up from Tk 299 crore in the first revision.
The project cost of the 20-storey building of the National Security Intelligence also witnessed a second revision to Tk 352 crore from Tk 249 crore. The original cost was estimated at Tk 88 crore.