During the last ten years, the government has made tremendous development of the Chittagong port, comparing to the sloth pace of progress of the port during the previous four decades. The government is sincerely working to ease the cost of doing business for the entrepreneurs through improving connectivity to and from Chittagong port with different parts of the country.
The government has already updated the Chittagong port incorporating necessary infrastructure. Speakers made the observations at a recent seminar titled ‘Logistical Challenges and Opportunities of Business’, organised by the International Business Forum of
Bangladesh (IBFB). Dr Forrest E Cookson, Economist, Development in Democracy, USA presented a keynote paper at the seminar. In his paper, Forrest Cookson said, “The future of the Bangladesh economy rests on its ability to export manufactured goods competitively to world markets. There is no alternative to make export led growth if Bangladesh wishes to achieve protracted rapid GDP growth.” “Export-led growth in manufacturing is characterised by exports growing more rapidly than GDP, by significant Foreign Direct Investments to bring technology and market knowledge, and by logistic systems to enable efficient and timely management of exports and imports.”
“The logistic needs of Bangladesh should be based on recognition of six principles – recognition of the importance of integration of the various transport modes; achieving a balance between speed and cost as appropriate to the marketing necessities; reliance on the private sector for investment and operations in logistic facilities; greater reliance on short run measures; improved management of existing facilities; and small high-return investments, political will to act and most importantly, urgent action,” he mentioned. The simplest way to speed up Customs at Chittagong port is to shift more and more of the inspection to the off-docks and allow containers to be moved out of the port to the off-dock for customs clearance. This decentralisation of customs operations should be feasible. Without decentralisation it is unlikely that the Customs can clear containers rapidly enough to avoid delays of incoming raw materials for export industries, he added. “The second point that will improve Customs clearance is to use sampling of containers for inspection by linking the probability of a container being inspected to the risk associated with the record of the importer and the type of goods being imported. Risk directed sampling will reduce the number of inspections and hence accelerate average clearance time.” “This is the problem of the Chittagong end of the Dhaka-
Chittagong highway and the delivery of export cargo and collection of import cargos. Road planning is connected with the locations of the 19 operating off-dock facilities and the rules Customs establishes for the management of imports through the off-docks. This is a very complicated analysis but the growing volume of trucks that will be moving around makes this a high priority for the authorities.”
“The third problem is management. There is a compelling case for the selection of an international Port Management Organisation that will provide modern nonpolitical management of the port. If the port is to meet the demands of a rapidly growing economy, a professional organisation needs to be engaged.” Ideally compensation of the port management organisation should be linked to achieving agreed goals of the flow of containers. This must involve Customs and clear agreement with Customs to maintain mutually acceptable clearance rates. “Mentioning that the remarkable development of the port in Chittagong was possible as a very peaceful environment prevailed among the labours during last nine year,” speakers said it was possible as the government ensured due facilities like high wages for the workers at the port. Previously, there were facilities for six berths only while a scope for 13 berths have been created at the port, and a number of jetties have been built, five have already been built and more are being developed at the port, they added. The government will build another port at Moheshkhali, they added.
Over the past five years, container flows in Chittagong port have increased at a rate of 13-14 percent per annum. Over the next 10 years, this implies a 270 percent increase in the number of containers that will pass through the port. There will be little increase in the containers per vessel so one can expect a similar growth in the number of container
ships arriving, Dr. Forrest E Cookson said. At present, there are 16 berths for container ships assuming that the general cargo berths will stop being used for containers. Of these, three have operating gantry cranes and another three cranes are being installed. When the six cranes are all operating then the port can handle about 1250 vessels per year at a rate of 3.5 days per ship. Present number of container vessels is about 1100. So there is a little extra capacity but not much. This will improve the situation and reduce the waiting time in the outer anchorage. In other words, with the installation of the new cranes and repair of the old cranes, the port will be operating at a reasonable level. However, five years from now, there is not sufficient time to increase the number of berthing slots. But the number of ships will increase by almost 100 percent. How can this be handled? If all 16 berths have gantry cranes then the time for loading and unloading is reduced to less than 2 days. The number of ships that can be handled will increase to about 2200.