Floating terminal to be built to relieve Chittagong congestion

Floating terminal to be built to relieve Chittagong congestion

There's little room for containers at the Chittagong port or the container depots serving it.

As congestion flares at the port of Chittagong, the government of Bangladesh says it will build a floating terminal at the port’s outer anchorage to facilitate the movement of containers to and from the Pangoan Inland Container Terminal (PICT), and is pushing for the establishment of more inland container depots (ICDs).

The terminal will allow the unloading import containers from feeder vessels to smaller brown-water vessels able to head upriver to the PICT, which is located in a suburb of the capital Dhaka. The outbound containers from PICT will be unloaded to the floating terminal before being loaded to feeder vessels for transport to transhipment hubs in Colombo, Singapore, or other locations.

“The congestion in Chittagong port has gone beyond the tolerable limit. Lack of space in the port as well as other depots cause delays in goods handling,” said Rafayet Ullah, a manager at a Dhaka-based apparel factory that deals with foreign trade.

The efforts comes amid continuous crippling congestion at the port, where vessels have to wait between 7 and 10 days to berth, resulting in surcharges and less regular service for shippers.

Finance Minister AMA Muhith on Monday agreed to make the necessary financial allocations immediately so that the floating terminal can be built within a year and a half.

Vessels from PICT enjoy priority berthing in Chittagong port, meaning a jetty in the port has been set aside just for container vessels to and from PICT, which was completed in 2013 to lower the costs of shipping from Chittagong to the Bangladesh hinterland.

Using PICT rather than the country’s congested highways can save shippers transit time because while sending containers by road from Dhaka to Chittagong can take 10 to 16 hours, truckers can take hours to actually enter the port yard and there is also extra time for loading, PICT Manager Ahmedul Karim Chowdhury told JOC.com. Water shipment from PICT to the port and loading for export takes 16 to 24 hours and is a smoother process, while the cost per TEU is $99, compared with $200 to $300 by road, he said.

PICT has an annual capacity of 116,000 TEU and is currently working on plans to create a coastal shipping service between the terminal and the port of Kunming in China. Given existing demand and projections for future growth, the government is considering adding capacity to PICT via a new jetty.

PICT’s current jetty is 180 meters long, and able to handle two ships with lengths of 70 to 75 meters. The terminal has a yard area of 55,000 square meters (592,015 square feet) and is equipped with one mobile harbor crane, two straddle carriers, four forklifts, two tractor trailers, and two cargo cranes

Presently, three state-owned vessels and two private sector vessels run the Chittagong-PICT route. Vessels leave for Chittagong every three days. Additionally, the MV Nou Kollyan connects PICT with the port of Kolkata under a coastal shipping agreement.

To help ease congestion at Chittagong, the government is also pushing for private operators to set up more ICDs to facilitate the movement of full-containerload (FCL) shipments by allowing the stuffing and unpacking of containers outside the port.

“Due to increased numbers of container handling each year, the Chittagong port area now lacks space to accommodate imported containers. It is fueling congestion in Chittagong port, resulting in [vessels staying longer] in the outer channel of the port,” Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Omar Faruk wrote in a letter to the ministry of shipping. “To help deal with the present congestion in Chittagong port, at least seven or eight more private ICDs are needed.”

The congestion has become so bad that there is no container stuffing or unpacking within the area of the port itself so that there is enough room for containers at the port, which is operating beyond its annual capacity.

Presently, some 17 private ICDs situated near Chittagong port store selected low-risk import items and empty containers, conduct customs clearance formalities, and allow unstuffing/delivery of selected categories of import consignments. As shippers are desperate for space because of the lack of capacity at Chittagong port, these ICDs are often at or exceeding their capacity as well.

“Sometimes we need to wait for days to get goods delivered from the depots as congestion inside the private ICDs also increased due to handling higher volume of imports and exports,” said Alamgir Hossain, an electronics goods importer in Dhaka.

Presently some 37 items can be cleared through private ICDs: rice, wheat, mustard seed, waste paper, chickpeas, pulse, raw cotton, scrap, animal fodder, soybean meal/extraction, dried distillers grains, rice bran, corn gluten meal, rapeseed extraction, palm kernels, maize, soybeans, hard coke, carbon black, marble chips, ball clay, onion, ginger, garlic, fertilizer, soda ash, PVC resin, staple fiber, containerized square, dates, sugars, bitumen, empty container for beverages, marble stone, sodium sulphate, wood pulp, and global salt. 

Contact Syful Islam at syful-islam@outlook.com.