Bangladesh will not allow its shippers to use India’s Kolkata and
Haldia ports to export and import goods to and from western countries, a key
Bangladesh shipping official said.
Currently, ships are allowed to transport bilateral cargo from Kolkata
and Haldia ports, but they cannot carry international cargo, which is banned under
a coastal shipping agreement. Both Kolkata and Haldia have ample capacity to
handle the volume.
Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad told the decision was made
with the interests of Bangladesh’s Chittagong and Mongla ports in mind; their
capacity is rising, given new equipment and the construction of jetties and
“We have to think about our ports first,” Samad said.
Samad said the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is constructing several
terminals to enhance its capacity. The Bay Terminal alone will have 13 jetties,
which will improve cargo handling capability significantly.
“We have already invested 3.52 billion taka ($42 million) to acquire
land for the port,” Samad said. “Several global port manufacturers have queued
up to finance and construct the port.”
In addition, construction of Patenga Container Terminal (PCT), with a
250,000-TEU annual capacity, is proceeding at full pace.
What’s more, the shipping secretary said projects are underway to
enhance Mongla port’s capacity, including Pangaon Inland Container Terminal
(PICT), while construction of the country’s third seaport at Payra is about to
start, with the dredging of its main channel.
Meanwhile, the shipping secretaries of Bangladesh and India will meet
to address bilateral issues from October 25 to 27 in New Delhi.
Asked whether they will discuss the use of Kolkata and Haldia ports by
Bangladeshi shippers, Samad said the issue is not formally on the agenda for
the talks. However, he said the issue may come up for discussion informally, if
the Indian side raises it.
Several months ago, Kolkata Port Trust invited the Bangladesh
authority to use its ports for handling international trade. They said
Bangladeshi shipper use of the Kolkata and Haldia ports is an option for those
who want to avoid congestion at Chittagong port.
A group of businessmen are eager to use the two Indian ports, due to
ongoing, longstanding congestion at Chittagong. Further, they fear that when
India, Nepal, and Bhutan start using Chittagong and Mongla port under a transit
facility, the congestion may worsen.
Gulf Orient Seaways Ltd managing director Sk Mahfuz Hamid told,
Chittagong port is overloaded.
“If the Indian ports are used for transporting Bangladesh’s
international trade, the capacity of Pangaon ICT won’t remain underutilized,”
Hamid said shippers would benefit by using the Indian ports.
Container-laden Bangladeshi ships will be able to directly call at
Visakhapatnam port if a clause under the coastal shipping agreement is amended.
Mother vessels anchored at Visakhapatnam would then carry the Bangladeshi
containers to and from western countries, Hamid added.