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New equipment to help ease Chittagong port congestion

Shippers have long been clamoring for more port equipment such as reach stackers in Chittagong.

The Chittagong port on Friday received 46 pieces of container-handling capacity, which shippers have long demanded to boost capacity at the oft-congested port that is operating well beyond its designed TEU capacity.

The equipment includes four rubber-tire gantry cranes, four high straddle carriers, four loaded-container reach stackers, four empty-container forklift trucks, five container movers, four telescopic handlers, 10 five-ton low-mast forklifts, 10 five-ton high-mast forklifts, and one log handler. The equipment came mostly from China, but also Poland, France, and Germany.

Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam praised the port authority for acquiring the new equipment, which he said will meet immediate demand to some extent. However, he said that much more equipment would be needed in addition to the construction of new terminals.

Shipping Ministry Shajahan Khan inaugurated the equipment at the New Mooring Container Terminal as the port continues to reel from the loss of half its ship-to-shore gantry crane capacity in a June accident, which spurred lengthy delays and the rationing of ships’ time in port.

Port officials say the recently delivered equipment is just the beginning of efforts to expand capacity at a port designed to handle 1.6 million TEU that had a throughput of 2.3 million TEU in 2016, a 16 percent year-over-year increase.

“We will soon buy two more mobile harbor cranes from Germany on an emergency basis as our container handling capacity halved,” Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) Chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal told JOC.com. “We will collect those directly from the manufacturers.”

The delivery period for such cranes is four months after providing work orders, he said, adding that the cabinet committee of public procurement has recently approved the purchase of six more gantry cranes that could be in operation within a year.

In addition to the equipment orders, the port of Chittagong is working frantically to add terminals in the harbor, going so far as to enlist the army to push forward completion of a 600-meter (1,968.5 feet) long, 26-acre terminal with a depth of 9.5 meters, three jetties, and an annual capacity of 600,000 TEU to 2019.

Congestion at Chittagong had eased during the last week as a result of the Eid vacation, but with the vacation over, demand for port services and space is again in full swing, which means shippers can expect an extra day or two of waits to get containers in and out of the port, Chittagong port spokesperson Zafar Alam told JOC.com

The holiday helped cut waiting time for vessels to nearly five days from seven to 10 days several weeks ago, according to port officials.

Some 19 vessels were due at outer anchorage on Sunday, according to local shipping agents.

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

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