The country's main seaport is ready to begin the first trial run of transhipment with India this January as it has an adequate vessel handling capacity, said Chittagong Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Zulfiqur Aziz.
The transhipment will formally begin after two trial runs of carrying cargo to and from Bangladesh's Chattogram port and India's Kolkata port, he said.
However, the date for the first trial run has not been set yet, the port chairman said.
"It [the date] depends on businessmen because we are waiting to receive their goods to start the trial run before the final flag-off," said chairman at a meeting with reporters in Chattogram on Tuesday.
On October 25, 2018, Bangladesh signed an agreement to allow India to use Bangladesh's two seaports – Chattogram and Mongla – to carry goods to and from India.
At the press briefing on Tuesday, the chairman of Chattogram port revealed a report on the port's record increase in container handling in 2019.
Last year, the port handled more than three million 20-foot equivalent containers (or TEUs), a growth of more than six percent from the number of containers it handled the previous year. In 2018, it handled slightly over 29 lakh containers.
The port's 2013 strategic masterplan says that, by 2043, Chattogram port will have to handle 14 million TEUs.
"Last year we handled three million TEUs, and this will increase by 11 million in 2043," Zulfiqur said.
Chattogram port and the under-construction Patenga Container Terminal have the capacity to handle only four million TEUs.
The port has been expanding its capacity, including the port limit, to handle an increasing number of containers. Moreover, the Bay terminal and the Matarbari terminal are under construction.
The port chairman said the port limit has been expanded six-fold from seven nautical miles (12.97 kms) to 50 nautical miles (92.6km).
Meanwhile, the port has bought 51 key pieces of equipment, including 10 ship-to-shore gantry cranes for the New Mooring Container Terminal. The first phase of the New Mooring Overflow yard has been completed at a cost of Tk91 crore. Two mobile harbour cranes have been added to the port.
The chairman also said the government has already approved a detailed project proposal to buy 104 more new pieces of equipment, and the process to buy them is underway.
Besides, the port authority is trying to appoint a Chinese firm to keep the Karnaphuli River clean. "We want to ask the Chinese company to bring equipment to collect floating garbage from the water," said Zulfiqur.
In reply to another question, the port authority chief said they have been planning to find a way to reduce traffic congestion on roads caused by port-bound trucks.
After 2025, trucks will not necessarily enter the city because a separate road will be built directly to the Bay terminal. There will be space for 8,000 trucks in the Bay terminal.
Chittagong Port Authority Member (Administration) Zafar Alam, Member (Harbour) Commodore M Shafiul Bari, Member (Engineering) Captain M Mohidul Hasan, Director (Traffic) Enamul Karim, Secretary Mohammad Omar Faruk and Deputy Secretary Azizul Moula, among others, were also present at the press briefing on Tuesday.