Mongla port, the second largest seaport in Bangladesh, has gained momentum in the last five years and attracted new investors in the region thanks to the steps taken by the government and efficient management of the authorities concerned.
Allowing import of cars through Mongla and other initiatives led to the port's increased activities, which has had an impact on the whole southern region.
According to the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (Bida), 114 businesses have been established in the last four years in Mongla, Bagerhat, Khulna, Jashore and Kushtia, providing employment to 21,549 people.
The industries include jute and textile, fisheries, auto rice mills, hatchery, pharmaceuticals, cold storages, printing and packaging, said Pronab Kumar Roy, director (Deputy Secretary), Khulna Divisional Office, Bida.
Sheikh Ashraf Uz Zaman, secretary general of the Greater Khulna Development Coordination Committee, said the activities of the port have already increased and with the commissioning of the Padma Bridge and the Khulna-Mongla train line and the completion of the Rampal Thermal Power Station, the dynamism of trade and commerce along the Mongla and Khulna southwest will increase manifold.
Sources in the port said from 2015-16 to 2019-20, Mongla port made a net profit of Tk497.31 crore. At the time, 3,700 merchant ships anchored in the port.
It is principally jute, fish and roof tiles which are exported through the port. Jute is exported mainly to India and Sudan. Shrimp and other fishes are sent to European countries, Japan and the USA. The destination of roof tiles is Italy and other European countries.
According to port sources, in 2015-16, 482 merchant ships anchored at the port, bringing in a net profit of Tk64.73 crore. In 2019-20, despite a decline in trade due to the lockdown amid the epidemic, the port managed to secure a net profit of Tk117 crore.
The amount of revenue in 2016-17 was Tk73.25 crore, in 2017-18 it was 109.33 crore and in 2018-19 it was 133 crore.
This year, from 1 July to 17 December, 459 commercial ships reached the port with various types of imported goods, including fertiliser, cement, clinker, ceramic clay, coal, general cargo and heavy equipment for Rampal and Rooppur power plants, LPG gas, fly ash and edible oil. However, from January 933 merchant ships have anchored at the port so far.
At the beginning of 2009, the government took special initiatives for the economic development of the south and south-west. To this end, various steps were taken to make the dying Mongla port functional and operational.
Intending to increase the activities of the port, import of cars through this port started from June 2009. The port became a profitable institution again and the net profit has gradually been increasing too.
Recent development of Mongla Port
To increase the capacity of the port, more than 50 development works, including 18 development projects, have been implemented from June 2009 to 2020.
At present, the development activities undertaken to provide fast and efficient service to the port users include procurement of 70 containers and cargo handling equipment, installation of 80 kW solar panels, construction of three car yards, purchase of 10 different types of auxiliary vessels, procurement and installation of 62 different types of lighted buoys, two rotating beacons and six GRP light towers, procurement of a mobile harbour crane, a stuffing-unstuffing shed and a Weybridge mobile scanner.
Besides, the development work of various infrastructures of the Roosevelt Jetty has also been completed.
Dredging in the outer bar of Mongla Port Channel started in July 2017 is and expected to be completed very soon. The work of launching Vessel Traffic Management and Information System started in 2017-18 and will be completed in 2021. There is also preparation of the strategic master plan of Mongla port, which started in September 2016 and will end in June 2021. Work on surface water treatment will end in 2021.
Apart from these, the construction of two incomplete jetties at Mongla Port under PPP will also be completed by 2021 with the collection of the essential equipment of the port, dredging of the inner bar of the animal channel, collection of auxiliary vessels, management of waste oil extraction, capacity building of the port. The ongoing projects will cost around Tk8,000 crore.
Plans for the development of Mongla port
The establishment of a new economic zone on 205 acres of land in the Mongla port area, the commissioning of the Rampal Thermal Power Station and the implementation of the construction of the Padma Bridge by 2018 will greatly increase economic activities centred on Mongla port.
In addition, the importance and use of this port will increase further if the coastal shipping system gets underway with neighbouring countries. Due to geographical reasons, the seven sister states of India are also keen to use the port at Mongla. If these are implemented, the handling of ships, cargo and containers at Mongla port will increase tremendously in the coming days.
Because of this growing demand and the vision related to Mongla Port, short, medium and long term plans have been adopted for further development and modernisation of the port and which is being implemented in phases.
Advocate Saiful Islam, secretary general of the Mongla Port User Coordination Committee, said the port has already undergone extensive development. At present, importers and exporters feel comfortable using Mongla port. Investment is also increasing.
In the meantime, EPZs, economic zones, small and medium scale industries, airports and railway lines are being constructed around Mongla port. Additionally, mother dredgers have been purchased to protect the navigability of the river for ships to come to port. Work on river dredging is going on.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the Mongla Port Authority, said the distance between Dhaka and North Bengal and Mongla Port will be reduced significantly. As time and cost are reduced, traders will become more interested in using this port.
"We have already overcome the port's navigability crisis. Now ships with a draft of 9.5 metres can dock at Harbaria in the port. These ships will be able to dock at the main jetty of the port from the beginning of next year," he added.