The long-awaited export shipment from Mongla port has finally taken place. A Panama-flagged ship left Mongla Port for Poland with Bangladeshi readymade garments (RMG) for the first time after the launching of the Padma Bridge. This is the first export shipment of readymade garments to any country from Mongla port. As communication distance from Dhaka to Mongla has reduced after the opening of Padma Bridge -- now 170 kilometres as against 260 kilometres between Dhaka and Chottogram port, traders are likely to find Mongla a suitable option for export.
With the prospect of export looking brighter in the days ahead, upscaling the cargo handling capacity and facilities of the Mongla port is crucial not only for easing the ever-increasing load on Chottogram port but more importantly for its becoming a major sea port of the country as well as of the region. Suggestions were abuzz for quite sometime from different quarters on how to relieve Chottogram port of the excessive load and enhance the capacity of Mongla. Recent experience suggests that the lengthy time required for handling of cargo -- both inward and outward -- is assuming serious proportions at the country's prime sea port in Chottogram. According to a study, average time taken from arrival of a vessel to release of imported goods at the 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 Chottogram port by upscaling Mongla with improved infrastructure and logistics.
For around a couple of years, the move to improve and modernise the facilities of Mongla port has been receiving the right thrust from the authorities. The move, according to reports, 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. It has been learnt that the Mongla Port Authority is currently working to materialise a project for installation of required machinery and equipment. Completion of the project is expected to substantially raise the cargo handling capacity.
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. Given the importance of Mongla as a prospective regional port, developing and equipping it with necessary logistics and infrastructure are a high priority. Besides, with a considerable load reduced, the Chottogram port can be expected to deliver better service than now.