Increasing the capacity of Mongla sea port is crucial not only in easing the ever-increasing load on Chattogram port but also in the interest of its becoming a major sea port of the country as well as of the region. This has been further augmented by the recent decision of the government to allow access of Indian cargo to the country's sea ports. Stray suggestions were abuzz for quite sometime on how to relieve Chattogram port of the excessive load and enhance the capacity of Mongla, but no planned programme of action was in sight except makeshift attempts that dealt mostly with curbing delayed clearance of merchandise at Chattogram. Recent experience suggests that the lengthy time now required for handling of cargo--both inward and outward--is assuming serious proportions at the country's largest sea port. According to a study, average time taken from arrival of a vessel to release of imported goods at the Chattogram port is more than 11 days while the time taken to release export cargo is nearly five days. Observers consider the time unaffordably high compared to the standard practices in most countries. Under the circumstances, one of the preferred options is to lessen the load of Chattogram port by up-scaling Mongla with improved infrastructure and logistics.
Lately, a move to substantially improve and modernise the existing facilities of Mongla port has received a thrust from the authorities. The move, according to a news story published in this newspaper, includes among others introduction of modern container and cargo handling equipment to enhance the port's capacity and achieve a double-digit operational growth in the near future. Besides, as reported, the port authority is all set to procure heavy-duty mobile crane, forklift, rail-mounted dock/portal crane etc. It has been learnt that the Mongla Port Authority had undertaken a Tk 876 million project to complete the works in two years time. Installation of the equipment and completion of all works under the project would surely raise the cargo handling capacity, and concerned quarters are hopeful that the port's handling capacity could be as high as 4.0-5.0 million tonnes a year.
While this is good news, it should also be noted that one of the key hindrances to Mongla's becoming a major port is inadequate navigability i.e., low draft not only in the waters close to the jetty but in one of the key channels that obstructs movement of big vessels. It remains a matter of thorough examination whether conventional dredging would be enough to do away with the hindrance. At present, dredging is on around the port area. A Chinese company has reportedly completed dredging of four out of six earmarked locations. The company is also reportedly working to improve navigability of the channel in question.
Given the importance of Mongla as a prospective regional port, developing and equipping it with necessary logistics and infrastructure deserve priority consideration. Besides, with a considerable load reduced, the Chattagram port can be expected to deliver better services than now.
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