The number of merchant ships anchoring at the Mongla seaport continues to increase despite the pandemic, thanks to soaring imports for some megaprojects, developing infrastructure of the port, enhancing coordination between customs and port authorities, and growing pressure at the premier seaport in Chattogram.
The second largest port in the southern region of the country received a total of 313 ships in the first four months of the current 2021-22 fiscal year, up by 10 in number compared to the corresponding period last year, pushing up its cargo handling activities and revenue earnings, according to the Mongla Port Authority.
In the July-October period this year, the port, located in Bagerhat, saw a substantial year-on-year growth, 29% to be exact, in cargo handling. It handled 38 lakh tonnes of goods, mostly raw materials and equipment of Rooppur nuclear power plant, metro rail project and Rampal coal power plant, coal, fertiliser, cement clinker and ceramic materials. Besides, it received 11 ships carrying different types of vehicles.
"We are operating the port with a target of earning Tk349 crore in revenue this year. If the current performance continues, we will be able to achieve it. Ship arrival and cargo handling will also hit a record," said Rear Admiral Muhammad Musa, Chairman of the Mongla Port Authority.
He hopes that ship anchoring will reach 1000-1200 in number at the end of the fiscal year.
Meanwhile, during the pandemic-induced lockdowns and restrictions, the port remained open and received a record number of ships, 970 to be precise, in FY21, bagging TK340 crore in revenue. It was an all-time high in the history of the port.
Port activities have also been on the rise over the last couple of years.
In FY20, the port witnessed the arrival of 903 foreign ships and earned Tk338 crore in revenue, while it saw 912 vessels and Tk329 crore in FY19, 784 ships and Tk276 crore in FY18 and 623 ships, and Tk226 crore in FY17.
"The port's revenue has naturally increased as ships, cargo, cars and container handling have gone up," said the port chairman.
Analysts believe increased imports for megaprojects and developed port facilities have contributed to the increase in the port's performance. The growing port activities, as a result, also help the local economy grow further.
"The construction of the Padma Bridge has positively impacted investment in the southern area of the country around Mongla Port. Several cement factories and other industries have started operations in the area," said Md. Mostafa Aziz Shaheen, a faculty member of the Port and Shipping Management Department at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Maritime University.
"Besides, the extended facilities of the port were another driver behind the improving performance," he added.
Meanwhile, a port official, wishing to be unnamed, said that the authorities were trying to improve the quality of services for notching up a position on the World Bank's "Ease of Doing Business" index.
In addition, coordination between the port authorities and customs authorities has also increased.
To provide quality services, he added, the port has already ensured necessary facilities, including capital dredging in the Pasur River and bringing in 42 containers and cargo handling machines.