Four lighterage jetties were constructed in Sadarghat seven years ago to unload imported goods from mother vessels onto bulk carriers–open goods–at the Outer Anchorage of Chattogram Port and bring them to the coast using lighter vessels.
However, the jetties have not been operational due to poor navigability as the bottom of the Karnaphuli River was filled with sand. After dredging, the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) did some experimental berthing of ships at the jetties in June. However, there is a new complication in the form of a connecting road.
Chattogram Port handled: 87,275,248 metric tonnes of imported cargo in Financial Year (FY) 2019-20; 82,939,731 metric tonnes in FY 2018-19; 78,050,447 metric tonnes in FY 2017-18; 66,464,285 metric tonnes in FY 2016-17; 58,324,786 metric tonnes in FY 2015-16; and 48,941,406 metric tonnes in FY 2014-15.
Due to the increase in the import of open goods every year, the CPA built the lighterage jetties to cope with the pressure.
Even after allocating four jetties to four industrial groups through tenders in May 2018, the CPA has not yet been able to hand over the jetties to those groups as the structural changes of the jetties has become a new complication. The CPA is also not sure when it will be able to hand over the jetties to the companies.
BSM Group Chairman Abul Bashar Chowdhury told The Business Standard that the connecting road to transport goods from Sadarghat Lighterage Jetty has not been constructed yet.
Another road was to be built to get the cargo trucks off the lighter jetties; because, cargo-carrying vehicles may not pass through Firingi Bazar during the day and large-sized cargo trucks cannot pass through Sadarghat area, he added.
"We informed the Chattogram Port Authority of our demands at a recent meeting. We are not sure when the CPA will hand over the jetties after meeting our demands," he continued.
The companies who will operate the jetties told the CPA that there is a passenger terminal at Sadarghat. Accidents might occur if passengers come and go while the cargo-laden lorries turn from the jetties. There would be no such danger if an elevated footbridge was built there.
CPA Secretary Omar Faruk told The Business Standard that through dredging, the Sadarghat Lighterage Jetty area has been made suitable for berthing ships. However, at a meeting with port authorities a month ago, the companies made some demands.
Those demands include changing some structures of the jetties, allowing cargo vehicles to enter the jetties, and ensuring a variety of facilities for workers–including taking a long trailer turn on the jetties. The process is ongoing to meet their demands, he added.
Port sources said in 2018 through tenders, four jetties were allotted to four industrial groups –Tk5 crore to each group–for 10 years. BSM Group will operate jetty no 1 where food grains will be unloaded; while BSRM group will operate jetty no 2, KSRM group jetty no 3, and Abul Khair group jetty no 4.
Though the jetties were constructed in 2013, operation of the jetties has not yet been started as the bottom of the Karnaphuli River was filled with sand. Through dredging in 2018, the sand was removed and the draft of the river was increased to facilitate the safe and smooth navigation of ships.
Draft is the minimum depth of water a ship or boat can safely navigate.
In June, the CPA performed an experimental operation of the jetties by berthing two ships. MV Nou Kollyan 1 and MV Nou Kollyan 2, two Chattogram Port-Pangaon route ships with four-metre draft, unloaded containers at the Sadarghat jetties.
CPA Chief Hydrographer Commander M Arifur Rahman told The Business Standard that they succeeded in checking the draft by berthing the container ships at the jetties.
Port sources said in 2011, the port authority undertook a capital dredging project worth Tk229 crore on the Karnaphuli River. In 2013, the local agent of the Malaysian company Maritime and Dredging Corporation left without completing the work–although they did some work including the construction of the lighter jetties.
In July 2014, the CPA canceled the contract based on this allegation. Work on the project has been suspended for five years due to legal complications.
Later in 2018, the port authorities started implementing the Sadarghat to Bakalia'r Char Dredging project. This project worth Tk242 crore is still going on under supervision of the Bangladesh Navy.