The government will make the use of Pangaon inland container terminal, located at Keraniganj on the bank of Buriganga river, mandatory to transport a part of imported cotton and capital machinery in and around Dhaka.
“We hope the move will make the terminal dynamic,” said Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan at a programme of the Chittagong Port Authority at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel yesterday.
Initially, the importers will have to carry 20 percent of their cotton and capital machinery through the Pangaon terminal, he said, adding that an order will be issued in this regard soon.
CPA organised the event to celebrate its achievements as it handled more than 20 lakh TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) in 2015, a milestone that Bangladesh has reached for the first time.
Subsequently, the Chittagong port now ranks among the three busiest ports in the region after Mumbai's Jawaharlal Nehru Port and Sri Lanka's Port of Colombo.
Of the containers handled in 2015, export cargo accounted for 996,000 TEUs and import containers the rest.
The private sector, especially the New Mooring Container Terminal, has played a big role in handling the record number of containers by the Chittagong port, said a top CPA official.
CPA's growth in cargo in 2015 stood at 17 percent. The last time it registered such growth rate was 12 years ago.
The CPA currently handles around 92 percent of Bangladesh's total maritime trade.
Over 70 percent of the imported goods, mostly bound for Dhaka and Narayanganj, are transported through roads.
Only 12 percent are ferried through rail links and the rest through river ways, according to CPA.
The government built the Pangaon ICT at around Tk 400 crore to help reduce the cost of carrying goods and ease the traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
But the ICT failed to attract users since its opening in November 2013, which businesses blamed on the lack of facilities including the shortage of ships.
Carrying goods through the waterways to the Pangaon ICT is time-consuming and expensive compared to rail and road, businessmen said. Also, there is no office of shipping agents in the terminal.
The shipping minister also blamed the shortage of ships for the Pangaon ICT's lack of traction with businesses.
“We had only three ships for the terminal. Some private ships have joined the fleet in recent months,” said the minister, adding that the terminal will be used by the businesses this year.
CPA Chairman Nizamuddin Ahmed said the Chittagong port is ready to be used by neighbouring countries, including India, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
But the rail and roads, through which the goods will also be ferried, are not ready yet.
Ahmed also said cargo handling by the Chittagong port will reach 26 lakh TEUs, the highest capacity of the port, in 2019. But, the demand is for 30 lakh TEUs.
“That's why, a new but big port is being built in Paira,” the CPA chairman said, adding that the Chittagong port is also being expanded to meet the rising needs.
M Abdul Latif, a lawmaker, and Ashok Madav Roy, secretary to the shipping ministry, also spoke on the occasion.