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Ctg port aims for faster, cheaper imports with 6 new jetties

Wednesday, 12 June 2024 | 00:00

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is on track to construct six new lighter jetties along the banks of the Karnaphuli River by this year to bolster the efficiency of Bangladesh’s primary maritime gateway.

CPA officials and businesses said this strategic initiative will enhance the port’s cargo handling capacity significantly while slashing costs and saving precious time for importers. Also, the expansion is set to ease the persistent traffic congestion plaguing the port city.

Currently, the port is served by five lighter jetties and the addition of the new jetties in Laldia Char of Patenga area is slated for completion within the year, bringing the total to 11. Despite this expansion, the business community contends that the port will still fall short of meeting the surging demands of import volume.

The CPA remains optimistic, projecting considerable benefits upon the completion in the next five months. Unloading times are anticipated to decrease by a remarkable one-third, which in turn will lower transportation costs for products, delivering a much-needed boost to the efficiency of cargo operations at Chittagong Port.

Once operational, these jetties will significantly reduce cargo unloading times by one-third. This will also lead to a decrease in product transportation costs and alleviate traffic congestion in Chittagong city,” CPA Secretary Md Omar Faruk told TBS.

He also said that the authority constructed a yard in Laldia Char and finalised agreements with six companies for the operation of the jetties. These lessee companies will complete the construction of the pontoon jetties and are expected to sign agreements with the CPA soon. The official anticipates the jetties to be operational within the next five to six months.

According to port officials, CPA has designated specific blocks for each company and plans to sign 10-year lease agreements with fixed annual rent. This project is expected to generate approximately Tk40 crore annually for the CPA.

Omera Petroleum Limited, East Coast Trading Pvt Ltd, SS Trading, Shah Cement Industries, GPH Steel and N Mohammed Trading Corporation have been nominated to operate Blocks 1-6, respectively.

These companies will pay annual rentals of Tk6.5 crore, Tk6.8 crore, Tk6.73 crore, Tk6.35 crore, Tk7.13 crore, and Tk7.13 crore for the yard space, respectively. Four of these companies have already completed their payments for the first year to the CPA.

East Coast Group, which has secured two of the jetties, plans to use them for unloading liquid bulk cargo such as oil and gas. Representatives from the organisation told TBS that they plan to begin construction of the pontoon jetties and other necessary equipment soon. The overall project is expected to expedite cargo handling at the port.

According to the Bangladesh Shipping Workers Federation, lighter ships typically carry between 1,200 and 5,000 tonnes of cargo. The six new jetties, assuming a capacity of 5,000 tonnes per ship, could enable the simultaneous unloading of up to 30,000 tonnes of cargo.

Mahfuzul Hoque Shah, director of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told TBS that the construction of six modern lighter jetties is a positive step.

However, Mahfuzul believes at least 20 lighter jetties are needed along the Karnaphuli River to meet current cargo unloading demands. He underscored that this project is a positive step that will ultimately benefit both businesses and consumers.

Chittagong Port receives approximately 4,200 commercial ships annually. Bulk carriers account for 45% of this traffic, followed by container ships (45%) and liquid cargo ships (10%).

Bulk cargo ships, carrying between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes of cargo (primarily imported food grains, scrap metal, cement clinker, and stones), are unloaded in the port’s outer anchorage using lighterage vessels.

Roughly 70% of the cargo is unloaded in this manner, with the remaining 30% being unloaded directly at the port’s jetties. Lighter ships then transport the cargo unloaded in the outer anchorage to importers’ warehouses situated along 34 inland waterways, including Banglabazar Ghat on the Karnaphuli River.

Reducing unload time, traffic congestion

Lighter vessels must travel a significant distance, ranging from 16-18 kilometres, from the estuary of the Karnaphuli River to reach the jetties and ghats in Sadarghat to unload cargo. This travel time is expected to be reduced to just 7 kilometres for the new Laldia lighter jetties.

Furthermore, unloading times are expected to improve dramatically. Unloading a 5,000-tonne capacity ship currently takes four to five days at the Sadarghat jetties. At the new Laldia facilities, this is anticipated to be reduced to one to two days. The CPA has also allocated dedicated parking areas of two acres each near the jetties to improve traffic flow for vehicles collecting goods.

The new Laldia jetties are strategically located to alleviate traffic congestion within Chattogram city. Traditionally, importers use lighter vessels to transport goods to various ghats along the Karnaphuli River within the city limits. This also results in a constant flow of thousands of trucks and covered vans navigating city roads, causing congestion.

With the Laldia jetties operational, vehicles can utilise the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel. Dhaka-bound vehicles can bypass the city altogether by using the Chittagong City Outer Ring Road. This will significantly improve traffic flow and reduce congestion within the city.

This initiative follows the construction of five lighter jetties in the Sadarghat area by the CPA in 2018. These jetties were allocated to BSRM Group, KSRM Group, Abul Khair Steel, Confidence Cement Group, and BSM Group.

These industrial groups utilise the jetties to unload imported goods from mother vessels in the open sea and transport them by road to factories and warehouses.
Source: The Business Standard

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