The newly-built Patenga Container Terminal will go into a trial operation with a bulk carrier docking at it on 21 July.
Necessary preparations have been taken for cargo vessels to moor at the new terminal, Md Omor Faruque, secretary of the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), told The Business Standard.
More ships will gradually be docked there, which will take the increasing cargo handling pressure off Chattogram port to some extent, he noted.
However, the date of the terminal's formal opening will be finalised later on, he added.
According to CPA sources, ships that have crane facilities will get priority at this terminal for now. Until a deal with a foreign firm is finalised, the container terminal will run under CPA management.
About 92% of the country's import and export goods pass through Chattogram port. Currently, the port has 19 jetties at three terminals: General Cargo Berth, Chattogram Container Terminal, and New Mooring Container Terminal.
After the opening of the Patenga terminal – 15 years after the new mooring terminal was constructed in 2007 – the number of jetties will increase to 23.
The port can currently accommodate ships with a maximum 9.5 metres of draught and 190 metres of length. The Patenga terminal will be able to accommodate ships with 10.5 metres of draught and 200 metres of length.
The Patenga Container Terminal, built on a 32-acre site at a cost of Tk1,229 crore, will be able to handle about 4.5 lakh twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of containers a year.
The terminal, with three container jetties and an oil unloading (dolphin) jetty, will be able to load and unload containers from four cargo vessels simultaneously.
To reach the main jetty of Chattogram port, ships need to cross a river route of around 14 kilometres from the estuary of the River Karnaphuli. As such, owing to the Patenga terminal's proximity to the estuary, unloading of goods from ships will take less time.
The CPA has already apprised organisations concerned, including Chattogram customs, of the launch of the new container terminal. CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan visited the terminal area on July 13.
On Thursday, it was observed that construction of the main jetty and the internal yard at the terminal has been completed. Work on various other infrastructure and a container freight station is nearing completion.
Nur Nabi Haque Raju, supervisor at MN Enterprise, a subcontractor for the Patenga terminal construction, said, "We will complete our work by 18 July."
Initially, it was decided that the CPA will manage the Patenga terminal, but the authorities decided that foreign operators will operate it under public-private partnership. Finally, it was again decided that if no foreign operator is hired by July 2022, the port authority will start running the terminal.
Five foreign companies have come forward with proposals for investing in and managing the Patenga terminal. The companies are AP Moller – Maersk of Denmark, Red Sea Gateway Terminal (RSGT) of Saudi Arabia, Dubai Port World (DP World) of UAE, Adani Port and Special Economic Zone Ltd of India and PSA International Singapore.
The port authority is currently negotiating with AP Moller – Maersk, RSGT and DP World, according to a source at Chattogram port.
Chattogram port handles more than 30 lakh TEUs of containers per year. In 2021, the port handled 32.14 lakh TEUs of containers.
After the Patenga container terminal project was approved on 13 June 2017, it was supposed to have been completed in December 2019, but by that time a mere 45% of it had been completed.
In the second phase, the CPA proposed an extension of the project till June 2021. But by that date, no more than 70% of the work had been completed. Consequently, the project was extended by one more year till June 2022.
The Bangladesh Army was attached to the "delegated procurement" of the project located near the estuary of River Karnaphuli. The construction includes a 583-metre main jetty with three berths, a 204-metre-long dolphin jetty, 80,000 metres of roller-compacted concrete pavement, a 1.20 km four-lane road and other infrastructures.
Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam said, "The Patenga terminal must be made fully operational through hiring an operator very quickly. Otherwise, we will lose out on the terminal's benefits."