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Patenga Container Terminal set for April start, to expedite port activities

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CHATTOGRAM : The much-discussed Patenga Container Terminal, which was built two years ago and formally inaugurated in November last year at Chattogram port, is set to go into operation in April with hopes of expediting international trade.

Elaborating on the benefits of the terminal, Golam Mainuddin, senior executive director at SHR Group, which partners with the port’s first foreign operator, said berthing for vessels will be provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and no vessel shall lie in wait at the outer anchorage.

“In addition, it will create competition among existing domestic operators. The revenue of the country will increase as well,” he told The Business Standard.

However, for the first two to two and a half years, only geared vessels – ships with cranes – will be loaded at the terminal, while containers will be lifted with cranes available on ships.

Three gantry cranes have already been ordered, and it will take around two years to bring them in and install them. Once the equipment is added, this terminal will be fully operational for loading gearless vessels, he continued.

The Patenga Container Terminal has three container jetties and one dolphin oil jetty, allowing for the simultaneous berthing of three container ships and one oil tanker. It is anticipated to handle 450,000 TEUs (Twenty Foot Equivalent Units) containers annually, enhancing Chattogram Port’s ship handling and container holding capacity.

Chattogram Port, the country’s principal gateway for seaborne trade, entered into a 22-year agreement with the Saudi Arabia-based Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) on 6 December to operate the much-awaited terminal.

According to information from Chattogram Port, preparatory measures, including the collection and installation of equipment at the terminal, will be taken within the first two years of the total 22 years. Red Sea Gateway utilises the latest machinery and technology in port management.

The port currently has three terminals – General Cargo Berth, Chattogram Container Terminal, and New Mooring Container Terminal. The terminals have a total of 20 jetties. Of the 19 jetties in port operations now, six handle bulk carriers, while 13 are container ships.

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) began the construction of the Patenga Container Terminal on 32 acres of land in the Patenga area at a cost of Tk1,229 crore in 2019. The construction was completed in June 2022. The terminal was not made operational due to a delay in operator recruitment.

Currently, to reach the main jetty of the port, a ship has to cross a river route of about 14 km from the estuary of the River Karnaphuli, which is just six kilometres from the Patenga Container Terminal.

The operation and management of the port have been handled for 136 years by using the tool port system. Consequently, the port service was plagued with multifaceted problems, including poor port management, monopoly business, and slow operations. In such circumstances, both the cost and time of business were higher than at other ports worldwide.

However, this time, departing from the tool port concept, the government is managing the port on the landlord concept, similar to developed ports worldwide.

Port services have been transitioned to the landlord system through the addition of foreign operators at the Patenga Container Terminal.

The CPA and related parties state that this will increase the capacity of the port. Competition among domestic operators in port management will enhance efficiency and reduce the cost of doing business.

Mohammed Shafiqul Alam Jewel, vice-chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association, said the terminal’s launch will streamline port operations, reduce waiting times for ships, and benefit shipping agents and mainline operators. The increased efficiency is expected to contribute to a positive image for Bangladesh in the global maritime sector.

After the self-financed construction of the terminal, the decision was made to run it under the port’s own management. After backtracking from this decision, the CPA signed an agreement with RSGTI on a government-to-government (G2G) basis with Saudi Arabia.

CPA Secretary Md Omar Farooq said that under the supervision of the Public Private Partnership Authority Bangladesh, Chattogram port has signed an agreement with Red Sea Gateway. The new terminal is now ready for operation.

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