The Mongla Port is on the way to becoming a vibrant hub for foreign ships. Some recent developments surrounding it point to such a possibility. Almost unceremoniously, the country's second-largest seaport, flagged off its first shipment of locally produced garments to Poland in the last week of July. A ship carrying goods reached the port for transshipping good to one of the states of northeast India early this week. Another South Korean ship anchored at the port carrying goods for the Bangbandhu Railway Bridge.
A foreign ship is carrying 17 containers of garments produced by more than two dozen local factories. The auspicious event that took place a month after the official inauguration of the Padma Bridge by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina could be the beginning of a new era for the Mongla Port. Until recently, the port, despite its helpful location, was rated as a second-grade one because of certain problems. One major problem---navigability of the main channel--- is now resolved through extensive dredging. This has helped the port attract a greater number of vessels. More than 75 cargo-laden ships, on an average, now visit the port every month. Yet it amounts to the utilization of one-third of the port's actual capacity. The number of visiting ships could be more if the port had efficient cargo handling equipment.
The primary advantage the Mongla Port enjoys is its proximity to Dhaka, which saves both cost and time. The distance between Dhaka and the Chottogram Port and Dhaka and the newly built Payra Port is over 260 kilometres (km) and 190 km, respectively. Padma Bridge has cut travel time between Dhaka and Mongla and hassles as well. For a long time, businesses have been looking for an effective alternative to the Chottogram Port since its use involves higher lead time, costs and other hassles. There was an alternative, but not an efficient one. Now, the situation, it seems, is changing. What, however, will be important is the expeditious construction of a four-, or six-lane road between Khulna and Mongla and a rail link between the two places. What matters most is the improved connectivity.
There might be a notable change soon as far as the use of the Mongla Port is concerned. India might use the port facilities along with Chottogram Port for transshipment purposes. Location-wise, the former will be a better option, no doubt. Nepal and Bhutan might also find the use of the port convenient for their external trade. What remains more important is the greater use of the port facility by local importers and exporters. Ensuring the satisfaction of the port users, thus, should be at the top of the agenda of the relevant authorities. So, the experience gained by the senders of the first RMG shipment using the Mongla Port will count here most, as other potential users in the same trade might solicit opinions from the first users. Hopefully, the feedback will be a positive one.
The Mongla Port authority reportedly has taken up a couple of projects to introduce sophisticated technology for efficient handling of both ships and cargoes. This important step that would help the port use its capacity at the optimum level and share the huge workload of the country's premier port in Chottogram has been long overdue. Much would, however, depend on better connectivity through road and rail routes. The Padma Bridge has met that demand only partially. The authorities need to fulfil the remaining parts.