CHATTOGRAM: Authorities are all set to install the Mass Water Transport (MWT) system in the port city, the first one in the country, with waterbuses to ferry the airport-bound passengers from Sadarghat to Patenga avoiding gridlock.
Initially, four waterbuses will start plying between Sadarghat in the upper stream of the Karnaphuli River and Naval Academy point at Patenga near Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport by the end of March.
Sources said construction of the waterbuses has been completed and work of their interior decoration is now at the final stage.
SS Trading, a concern of Western Marine Group, the country's leading shipbuilder, will operate the waterbuses.
Operation of the waterbuses will be inaugurated on 26th March, the day of the country's independence, while the service for regular passengers will be available from March 30.
Sources in the operating company said two passenger lounges- one at the Sadarghat end and another at the Patenga Airport end- are being constructed to facilitate arrival, wait, and landing of the passengers.
The company will handle the whole gamut of journey of the passengers bound for the airport, including checking of their luggage up to the airport and their departure from the airport to Sadarghat MWT station.
When contacted, Managing Partner of SS Trading Md Sabbab Hossain said they built the waterbuses and passenger lounges under a contract signed with Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd, a ship repair and shipbuilding enterprise in the public sector.
Earlier, Chittagong Dry Dock Ltd entered into an agreement with the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) for construction of two passenger terminals at Sadarghat and Patenga to introduce the Mass Water Transport system for airport-bound passengers.
CPA Chairman Rear Admiral Zulfiqur Aziz said commuters from different areas of the city face gridlock on the Airport Road, especially in the port area where trucks, lorries, covered vans and long vehicles enter and exit the port sheds with cargoes.
Airport-bound passengers often miss their scheduled flights and vehicles carrying cargoes for shipment through the Chittagong port also get delayed and miss schedules, which is very embarrassing for the port authority.
To get rid of this plight and facilitate easy and smooth travel of airport passengers, the CPA has decided to introduce the waterbus system.
The CPA handed over construction of water transports and passenger lounges to the Chittagong Dry Dock which is getting the work and its operational activities done by SS Trading. Sabbab Hossain said this is a new concept not applied anywhere in the country so long.
Four waterbuses are now ready and construction of the passenger lounges is nearing completion. They hope to start service of the waterbuses on March 30.
Before that their operation will be formally inaugurated either by the Prime Minister or a minister.
SS Trading will operate the Mass Water Transportation (MWT) initially with four waterbuses.
If demand increases, the number of waterbuses will increase, Sabbab said.
Highlighting the importance of the MWT system, he said a passenger now needs to reach the airport in nearly three hours from the city's centre due to severe gridlock.
"If they don't start for the airport by a transport at least three hours of schedule, they miss the flight. But availing of the waterbuses the passengers will reach the airport from Sadarghat in just 30 minutes," he said, adding that the passenger lounge on the Patenga end is only 20 meters off the Chittagong Airport and they will feel ease to reach the airport from Sadarghat in around 30 minutes.
Engineer Ali Ashraf, head of Civil Engineering department of Southern University Bangladesh said it will be a very effective move on part of the CPA to introduce the waterbuses to free passengers of the Airport Road from severe gridlock.
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