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

Companies welcome the move, but say the port will still fall short of the requirements

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

CPA officials and companies said this strategic initiative will significantly increase the port’s cargo handling capacity, while reducing costs and saving valuable time for importers. In addition, the expansion should alleviate persistent traffic congestion in the port city.

Currently, the port is served by five lighter jetties and the addition of the new jetties at Laldia Char in the Patenga area is expected to be completed within the year, bringing the total to eleven. Despite this expansion, the business community claims that the port still cannot meet the rising demands of import volume.

The CPA remains optimistic and expects significant benefits upon completion over the next five months. Unloading times are expected to reduce by a notable third, which in turn will reduce transportation costs for products, giving a much-needed boost to the efficiency of freight operations at Chittagong Port.

“Once operational, these jetties will significantly reduce cargo unloading times by a third. This will also lead to a reduction in the transportation costs of products and reduce traffic congestion in Chittagong city,” CPA Secretary Omar Faruk told TBS.

He also said the authority has constructed a wharf in Laldia Char and entered into agreements with six companies for operating the jetties. These tenant companies will complete construction of the pontoon jetties and are expected to sign agreements with the CPA soon. The official expects 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 leases with a fixed annual rent. This project is expected to generate around 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 pay annual rents of Tk6.5 crore, Tk6.8 crore, Tk6.73 crore, Tk6.35 crore, Tk7.13 crore and Tk7.13 crore respectively for the garden space. Four of these companies have already completed their first year’s payments to the CPA.

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

According to the Bangladesh Shipping Workers Federation, lighter ships typically carry between 1,200 and 5,000 tons of cargo. The six new jetties, based on a capacity of 5,000 tons per ship, would allow the simultaneous unloading of up to 30,000 tons of cargo.

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

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

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

Bulk freighters, carrying between 50,000 and 60,000 tons of cargo (mainly imported food grains, scrap metal, cement clinker and stones), are unloaded at the port’s outer anchorage using barges.

Approximately 70% of the cargo is unloaded in this way, while the remaining 30% is unloaded directly at the port’s jetties. Lighter vessels then transport the cargo discharged in the outer anchorage to importers’ warehouses along 34 inland waterways, including Banglabazar Ghat on the Karnaphuli River.

Reduction of unloading time and traffic congestion

Lighter ships have to travel a considerable distance, ranging from 16 to 18 kilometers, from the mouth of the Karnaphuli River to reach the jetties and ghats at Sadarghat to offload cargo. For the new lighter jetties at Laldia, this travel time is expected to be reduced to just 7 kilometers.

In addition, unloading times are expected to improve dramatically. Currently, unloading a 5,000 tonne capacity vessel takes four to five days at the Sadarghat jetties. At the new Laldia facilities, this is expected to be reduced to one to two days. The CPA has also allocated special parking lots of two hectares each near the jetties to improve traffic flow for vehicles collecting goods.

The new Laldia jetties are strategically located to reduce traffic congestion in 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 plying the city’s roads, causing congestion.

Now that the Laldia jetties are operational, vehicles can use the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel. Vehicles heading to Dhaka can bypass the city altogether by using Chittagong City’s Outer Ring Road. This will significantly improve traffic flow and reduce congestion in the city.

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

These industrial groups use the jetties to unload imported goods from mother ships on the open sea and transport them by road to factories and warehouses.