The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) procured three container vessels in 2013 for transporting goods to Pangaon Container Terminal in Narayanganj. Initially, the CPA operated the ships but later handed them over to a company on a five-year contract.
The port has not seen any profit in operating these vessels so far.
Bought at Tk50 crore, the CPA has managed to earn no more than Tk16 crore by operating the three ships, namely, MV Pangaon Express, MV Pangaon Vision and MV Pangaon Success, with a capacity of 120 to 140 TEUs.
Moreover, the CPA did not get a suitable price even after issuing several rent notices. As a result, the port authorities plan to sell the ships in auction.
Port officials in the know also said the port authorities have little experience in operating ships, while importers and exporters are not interested in transporting containers on ships on the Chittagong-Pangaon route.
Omar Farooq, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority, told The Business Standard that the three ships at the Chittagong port had been given to a private company to operate. Due to losses, however, the company handed over the ships to the port.
A senior official of the Chittagong Port, who did not want to be named, told The Business Standard two of the ships arrived in December 2013, with the third one following in August 2014. Initially, the ships were operated under the port's management, but later, on September 2, 2015, the port handed over the ships to Summit Alliance Port Limited in the presence of the then shipping minister Shahjahan Khan at New Mooring Container Terminal Jetty, on a five-year contract at a monthly rent of Tk42 lakh.
The lessee company handed over the ships to the port two years and six months before the expiration date due to continuous losses incurred in transporting containers on the route.
On condition of anonymity, an official concerned said the legal adviser of the port gave an opinion at the beginning of this month that there was no legal impediment to selling off the three ships.
A year and a half ago, the opinion of the legal adviser was also sought on operations on the Sri Lanka route instead of the Chittagong-Pangaon route. It was suggested that there was no impediment to the operation on the route as long as the ships were fit.
Despite this opinion, the authorities have decided to sell the ships.
The three ships have been lying idle in Chittagong port since the end of 2017. Port officials are sceptical about getting a good price at auction as the ships have not been in operation for a long time. They think the sooner the ships are sold, the less the loss.
A visit to the port's lighter jetty in the Sadarghat area revealed rust in different parts of the ships. Several crew members said most of the ships' equipment had been damaged due to non-operation.
Ali Azgar, a shipmaster of MV Pangaon Vision, told The Business Standard, "I joined the ship one year ago. Since then, I have seen the three ships anchored in the Karnaphuli river. On Thursday morning, the ships were brought to the port's newly constructed lighter jetty in the Abhay Mitra Ghat area of Sadarghat by two tugboats."
The Chittagong Port Authorities constructed a container terminal in the Pangaon area of Narayanganj in 2010 to transport container goods from the port to Dhaka by river route to reduce container congestion at the port. After unloading at Chittagong port, the Dhaka-bound container cargo was transported by river to Pangaon container terminal in small ships.
An official of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association said on condition of anonymity that importers remain more interested in transporting goods by road and rail. As a result, this river route has not yet become popular.