Two Matarbari jetties, which the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) experimentally built to provide dedicated services to a power generation project, witnessed 53 ships anchoring in a year, saving both money and time.
The deep-sea port at Matarbari is being constructed in Maheshkhali to facilitate anchoring of large ships as the existing seaports in Chattogram and Mongla cannot take mother vessels. Both use feeder vessels to transfer containers.
"We are happy to see more than 50 ships at the jetties, before constructing the deep-sea port there. It is very good news for the country's businesses," Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the CPA, told The Business Standard.
"This experience can also be useful to make the deep-sea port," said the official of the CPA, under which the Matarbari Port is also being built.
Meanwhile, the Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project was able to save some $3.58 million capitalising on the jetties, nearly 100 kilometres away from the Chattogram port, the country's main gateway for international trade.
It released 61,200 tonnes of project materials without counting lighter fares and some other costs that were must in the premier seaport. The jetties situated in the power project area helped the project cut demurrage charge, freight and transportation costs, he added.
The port authorities started construction of the wharves – one having the capability of releasing oil and another of coal – in 2015.
A channel of 250 metres width, 14 kilometres length and 18 metres depth has also been built to facilitate the entry of the vessels.
For the first time on 29 December 2020, the Matarbari jetty received a foreign ship carrying instruments for the project, and on 15 July 2021, it saw the second one. All the 53 ships brought materials for the power project.
How the power project saved $3.58m
According to the CPA, releasing a tonne of goods costs Tk1,200 at main jetties of Chattogram port. However, it came down to Tk400 at Matarbari jetties.
Ataul Kabir Ranju, joint secretary (operations) of Water Transport Cell, a non-government organisation operating lighter vessels, told TBS that the fares for transporting goods from Chattogram port to Matarbari by lighter vessels are Tk517 per tonne. In that calculation, the power project saved Tk3.17 crore in transport fare of 61,200 tonnes of goods.
According to Chattogram Port sources, a ship has to wait for 5-7 days at the outer anchorage to get berthing at a jetty here. In that case, shipping agents had to pay $8,000-10,000 shipping demurrage depending on the size of the ship. They would have to pay $50,000 for five days of waiting for each ship.
But ships can anchor directly at Matarbari jetties without any waiting. As a result, $50,000 can be saved in shipping demurrage per vessel.
In that calculation, the power project has saved $2.65 million in shipping demurrage against 53 ships in the last year.
Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project
Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited is implementing the 1,200MW Matarbari Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Project at Matarbari in the south-eastern part of the country.
The cost of the project approved in 2014 was estimated at Tk35,984 crore but it was later raised to Tk51,855 crore. The project will be completed in December 2026.
The power plant will go into production in 2024. The first ship carrying coal for the project will arrive in 2023. At that time, large ships will be able to enter the jetties. That would be a huge milestone for this project.
Abul Kalam Azad, executive director at the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited, told TBS, "So far 52% of the power project has been completed. We are able to unload imported goods very quickly using two jetties. Shipping directly to the jetties in the project area is saving both time and money."
Initially, a jetty was constructed for importing goods for the power project, but later the government took the initiative to build Matarbari deep seaport at that place.
Once the construction is completed in 2025 at a cost of Tk17,777 crore, ships with a depth of 18 metres will be able to dock at Matarbari port jetties.
In addition to transporting Bangladeshi goods, India's landlocked seven sisters Assam, Arunachal, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura and Nepal Bhutan will also benefit from the port, according to the CPA.
They will be able to transport goods from Kolkata and Haldia in India by feeder vessels. Under the transit and transhipment facility, containers or cargoes will arrive from India, Nepal and Bhutan and at the same time, feeder vessel service will be launched from Matarbari to nearby ports such as Kolkata and Haldia, it added.
Bangladesh will be able to earn a lot of foreign currency
Of the country's total trade, 92% is done through the Chattogram port. With the pace of business growth, the port has reached the last stage of its capacity.
Therefore, the government took the initiative to build the Matarbari deep seaport. Following the agreement signed with the consultant in September 2020, the development work of this project officially started in November. The project is still in the land acquisition stage.
Due to the shallow depth, ships with a depth of more than 9.5 metres cannot enter jetties at the Chattogram port. Owing to this, container goods are transported using feeder vessels.
At the port jetties, an average of 1,878 TEUs containers are transported on each ship. Whereas ships carrying 8,000-10,000 containers will be able to enter Matarbari port jetties once the seaport construction is completed.