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Chittagong seaport: heartland of Bangladesh's economy


Nazimuddin Shyamol | December 07, 2022 00:00:00

Since as far back as 1888, the port of Chittagong, the prime seaport of Bangladesh with shore-based facilities, has been playing a pivotal part in the economic development of the country. It is considered heart of the economy, principally for channelling the country's external trade and catalysing domestic industrialisation.

The Chittagong seaport creates the opportunity of flexible and cost-effective foreign trade to be carried out with all the South Asian countries as well as other Asian countries for its geographical location. Moreover, sufficient and low-cost labour readily exists here. So, Chittagong port holds much potential as a highly promising regional porting hub.

It is situated in the estuary of the Karnaphuli River which originates in the hills north-east of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and flows into the Bay of Bengal. The main significance of this port lies in the fact that it provides a deep-water anchorage a few miles inland from the sea. The steering distance is 16 kilometres from the outer bar on the Bay of Bengal to the main berths on the bank of the river Karnaphuli.

The location of the port and its natural harbour made it an important centre of trade and business as far back as the 9th century AD when Arab merchants found it to be a lucrative centre for trade. By the beginning of the 15th century, Chittagong port was an important trading centre. Chinese chronicler Ma Huan, who visited Chittagong in 1405 with a Chinese mission, refers to 'Chit-le-Gan' as a port frequented by Chinese trading vessels. The most frequent visitors to the port were, however, the Arabs.

Among the Europeans, the Portuguese were the first to arrive at Chittagong. The Portuguese tried twice, without success, to capture Chittagong, first in 1517 under John de Silviera and again in 1527 under Alfonso-de-Millo. Finally, they secured it and Satgoan, from Mahmud Shah, the ruler of Bengal, in return for helping him against Sher Shah Sur. Under the Portuguese, Chittagong prospered and became a commercial centre acquiring the title 'Porto Grande', the great port, as opposed to Satgoan, the 'Porto Pequene'. In 1665-66 Shaista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, advanced on the port and took it by storm.

However, since 1971, the Chittagong seaport has been developed as a modern port. With the birth of Bangladesh in 1971 the trade through the port expanded greatly. To cope with the rapid development and expansion of the port, the Government of Bangladesh promulgated the Chittagong Port Authority Ordinance in 1986 and dissolved the Port Trust.

Chittagong Seaport, one of the oldest natural ports on the subcontinent and prime seaport of the country, is handling the cargoes and containers under the management of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA). Meanwhile, the CPA has passed its 135 years of forming the port authority in the current year. The under-construction deep-sea port of CPA will be a regional business hub after the completion of its construction. The under- construction Bay Terminal, Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) and other terminals of the CPA will come after completing its construction. The Bay Terminal, Patenga Container Terminal and other terminals of the CPA will be service port in future.

However, Chittagong port used to handle more than 92 per cent of export and import cargoes of Bangladesh. The port handled a record quantity of containers in 2021. The prime seaport of the country handled a total of 32, 14,548 TEUS of containers from January 01 to December 31 in 2021. The port is overcoming the crisis of corona outbreak recently and restored the speed of operational activities. The waiting time of ships in Chittagong port is zero. We have started shipping with Europe now.

A total of 4,209 ships came to Chittagong port in 2021 while a total of 3,728 anchored in 2020 and 3,807 ships came in 2019. Chittagong Port has advanced three steps in a year to become world's 64th busiest port in terms of annual throughput of containers in 2021. The position was 67th in 2020.

Meanwhile, the CPA has signed an agreement with Sellhorn Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH, Germany, and AQUA Consultant & Associates Ltd. & KS Consultants Ltd, Bangladesh, for selection of international consultancy firm for a detailed engineering design of Breakwater for Bay Terminal and assess the actual volume of capital dredging, including necessary studies following latest international standards, for the construction of the Bay Terminal of Chittagong seaport. The agreement was signed at the boardroom of the CPA on October 19 last.

Chittagong Port earned a total of Tk 3,585 crore in the last (2021-2022) fiscal, which is a record in last several years. The port's net income is Tk 1075 crore after paying all expenditures, including charges, taxes and staff salary, in the 2021-2022 fiscal. The income of Chittagong port was over Tk 3070 crore in the previous 2020-2021 fiscal. The net income was Tk 1'075 crore in the 2020-2021 fiscal. The port's income is playing a great role in development of the country.

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