'Fast-track' seaport projects tread in slow lane

FHM Humayan Kabir | Published: June 01, 2018 10:02:58 | Updated: June 03, 2018 10:22:51

Artist's expression shows the potential Payra seaport project. Photo: YouTube

The execution of two 'fast-track' seaport projects has been progressing at a very slow pace, according to relevant officials.

Of the two, work on one project — the Sonadia deep-seaport -- has not yet started.

Only recently, the development work at the site of another project — the Payra seaport — has started.

A top official at the ministry of shipping said the government is yet to decide whether it would set up the deep-seaport at Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal.

Besides, the development work of the Payra seaport has started well behind the schedule.

In 2015, the government undertook a Tk 11.28 billion project for building the Payra seaport by June 2018.

Recently, the project has been revised, raising its cost to Tk 35 billion.

The execution deadline has also been extended to 2020.

The shipping ministry official said the government has failed to reach a consensus on setting up the deep-seaport at Sonadia, considering its possible environmental impact.

Since the government is working on setting up the Payra seaport and another port at Matarbari, it is treading at a slow pace on the Sonadia deep-seaport, another senior shipping ministry official said.

"Basically, it's a big political decision on the part of the government," said the official.

In its previous tenure, the Awami League-led government had undertaken 10 fast-track projects for the development of infrastructure, power, energy, and shipping sectors.

Under the fast-track programme, it had included the Sonadia deep-seaport and the Payra seaport.

Chairman of the Payra Seaport Authority M Jahangir Alam told the FE that the agency had faced troubles in preparing work-programme for several components of the port project.

"Now we are in a good position to start all the work of the port development phase by phase," he said.

"We've already built the service areas at the port site. Now we are working towards acquiring 6,500 acres of land," he added.

Mr Alam said the delay in initiating the capital dredging was the main obstacle to the port development.

But the setback is now over and the seaport authorities are going to sign an agreement with Belgian Jan De Nul for the dredging work on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis, the chairman said.

Since the capital dredging could not be started, foreign companies did not come forward to invest in the port development.

Now, he said, "I am hopeful about getting the investments after the dredging deal," he said.

"I've targeted completing the capital dredging, an initial terminal, a coal terminal and the multipurpose terminal by 2020," Mr Alam said.

The entire port development work will be completed by 2022, he said.

It will be one of the largest port operation facilities in Bangladesh, the chairman said.

About the Sonadia project, Mr Alam said the government has planned to transform the Payra seaport into a deep-seaport in the near future.

The shipping official said, "At this moment, the government has scrapped its decision to set up the deep-seaport at Sonadia."

"There are some environmental issues here. The deep-seaport cannot be built now," he added.

The government earlier decided to set up the Sonadia deep-seaport investing an estimate US$ 2.23 billion in the first phase to make it operational within five years from the start of construction.



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