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Expert suggests Ctg port takeover by int'l operators

The same mooted for air cargo handling

FE Report | September 17, 2018 00:00:00

The management of the country's main sea port Chittagong should be handed over to an international port management entity to increase its efficiency, an international expert has said.

Similar approach should be adopted in handling air cargo as well as building of warehouse facilities at the land port, the expert noted.

"Over the next five years, the number of ships arriving at the Chittagong port will increase by 100 per cent. How would the port handle it", Dr. Forrest Cookson, sought to know while speaking at a seminar on 'Logistical Challenges and Opportunities of Business' in the capital on Sunday.

International Business Forum of Bangladesh (IBFB) organised the seminar.

"There is a compelling case for the selection of an international port management organisation that will provide modern apolitical management of the port", Cookson said at the event.

"If the port is to meet the demand of a rapidly growing economy, the politicisation of the port management should be stopped and a professional organisation should be engaged in its day-to-day operation", he added.

Apart from privatisation of port management, Cookson also emphasised speeding up of customs procedure at the sea port.

"The simple way to speed up customs is to shift more and more of the inspection of the off-docks and allow containers to be moved out of the port to the off dock for customs clearance", he said.

Noting that the number of ships arriving at the Chittagong port will double in the next five years, Cookson also emphasized on increasing the capacity in proportion of that future outlook.

"At present, there are 16 berths for container ships. Out of those, three have been operating gantry cranes. Three more cranes are being installed", he observed.

"However, if all 16 berths have gantry cranes, then the time for loading and unloading will be reduced to less than two days. At the same time, the number of ships that can be handled will increase to about 2200", he added.

In this context, he recommended that 10 more cranes be installed immediately to cover all 16 berths. At the same time, plans should be laid out immediately for a bayside terminal with sufficient capacity to install 16 berths, he added.

Cookson also called for privatisation of air cargo handling.

"As air cargo volume rises, the cargoes kept inside the airport waiting for clearance grows and grows. It has reached a breaking point now with customers dissatisfied with the service", he observed.

"The handling of the air cargo, therefore, should be given to a private company and taken away from Biman", he said, adding "Biman has failed and should not be allowed to continue to manage such a critical logistical area in an awful way".

"At the same time, proper warehousing should be constructed serviced by forklifts and modern warehouse management procedures", he added further.

The target should be to reduce the time between the air cargo landing and the customer taking it out of the airport to one day from the five to six days it currently takes, he said.

Cookson also observed that the flow of container traffic along the Dhaka-Chittagong highway will grow by 60 per cent in five years and by 155 per cent in 10 years.

In this context, he called for reducing the side friction from vehicles parked along the highway and banning of slow-moving vehicles such as CNG, rickshaws and vans on the highway.

He also recommended establishing reduced access to the main highway and controlling of crossing points by traffic lights.

To establish discipline, the control of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway should be handed over to the army for 18 months, he said.

When it comes to land port, he said that the authorities should involve the private sector to build warehouse facilities and to operate the warehouse and manage documents.

Speakers at the function also called for strengthening the railway and inland waterway routes for increasing the efficiency of transport and logistics in the country.

They also emphasized on establishing a bonded warehouse facility for the air bound export products and establishing customs house at the Mongla seaport.

"Lack of functionality of the concerned authorities, conflicting interest of the vested groups and lack of political will are the main reasons for our failure to develop our logistical facilities", said Khondaker Golam Moazzem, Research Director of the Center for Policy Dialogue (CPD).

He also called for linking waterway and railway networks with the Special Economic Zones that are under construction.

Speaking on the occasion, Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan said that bureaucratic efficiency is essential for implementing any mega project.

"Another crucial thing for the development of the country is political stability", Khan said.

"As part of boosting the shipping and other transport logistics in the country, we have already increased the number of berth at Chittagong port from 6 to 16 while the number of cranes will be increased to 10 this year", he said.

"We have turned Mongla port into a profitable organization while new sea ports are going to be established at Maheshkhali".

"A total of 10 new land ports have been established in last nine years while we have plan to establish 12 more land ports", the minister said.

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