- The port authority will start running the Patenga Container Terminal if no foreign operator is hired by July 2022.
- Traders say crisis of equipment at the port will intensify if equipment from other terminals is brought there
- Only the jetty facility of the terminal will be available for use in the initial stage.
- The port authority will not provide any key gantry crane, so only ships with cranes will be docked there initially.
The Chattogram Port Authority plans to launch the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) in July this year, but the Ministry of Shipping has not yet finalised an operator for running the terminal, which has led to concerns among traders.
Work on this project has reached the final stage after an extension of its implementation period several times. It will take one and a half to two years more to reap the benefits of the new terminal if equipment is not allocated and operators are not recruited there soon, said the traders.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the New Mooring Container Terminal lay idle for several years due to a lack of equipment even after its construction was completed.
"This should not happen again at PCT and the authorities should make arrangements so that it comes into use quickly. There is no alternative to starting operations at this terminal on time to handle the growing import-export trade," he added.
Previously, work on the construction of the New Mooring Container Terminal (NCT) was completed in 2007, but high-quality equipment, including gantry cranes, was added to this terminal in 2018.
The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) is constructing the Patenga Container Terminal at a cost of Tk1,229.58 crore.
The PCT, built on a 32-acre site, will be able to handle about 4.5 lakh TEUs of containers per year. The terminal has three containers and an oil unloading (dolphin) jetty. Four ships can be docked at a time there.
Initially it was decided that the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) will manage the Patenga Container Terminal, but the authorities decided that foreign operators will operate the terminal under public private partnership (PPP). Finally, it was again decided that if no foreign operator is hired by July 2022, the port authority will begin running the terminal.
According to businesspersons, the volume of the country's import and export is increasing every year and direct shipping routes between different European countries are being introduced.
In this situation, Chattogram port is struggling to cope with its limited equipment. The crisis will intensify if equipment from other terminals of the port is brought to the PCT.
According to sources at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Chattogram port needs 26 gantry cranes, but has only 16.
Moreover, the port needs to increase the number of rubber-tyred gantry cranes from 41 to 52, straddle carriers from 45 to 80, reach stackers from 26 to 40, and container movers from eight to 15.
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 (GCB), Chattogram Container Terminal (CCT) and New Mooring Container Terminal (NCT). After the opening of the Patenga terminal, the number of jetties will increase to 23.
The port can currently accommodate ships with a maximum 9.5 meters of draft and 190 meters of length. The PCT will be able to accommodate ships with 10.5 meters of draft and 200 meters of length.
According to sources at the port, only the jetty facility of the Patenga Container Terminal will be available for use in the initial stage. The port authority will not provide any key gantry crane and so only ships with cranes will be docked there in the beginning.
Five foreign companies have come forward with proposals for investing in and managing the Patenga Container 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 (APSEZ) of India and PSA International Singapore.
The port authority is currently negotiating with AP Moller – Maersk, RSGT and DP World, said a source at the Chattogram port.
The operator will be in charge of the terminal for a specified period of time. It will also bring the equipment required for maintaining the terminal and at the end of its contract period, the equipment will be owned by the port.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan Hossain, chairman of Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), told TBS, "Until an operator is hired, CPA will operate the Patenga terminal. It can be maintained with the equipment the port already has."
"The authority is working to recruit operators. Hopefully the operator will be hired soon."
The 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 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 port authority proposed an extension of the project till June 2021. But by that time, 70% of the work had been completed. Consequently, the project was extended by one more year till June 2022. ***