Private river port by June

Mehdi Musharraf Bhuiyan
A home-grown cargo handler is racing to set up the country’s first privately run river container port.

The port, in Munshiganj, will handle sea freight between Chittagong and Dhaka.

Summit Alliance Port Ltd (SAPL), a venture of local conglomerates Summit Industrial, Mercantile Pvt Ltd and Alliance Holdings Ltd, said its project is named Cemcor.

Construction of the river port on 14.5 acres in west Mukterpur on the Dhaleshwari river may be complete by next June, said officials.

The terminal will handle up to 1.20 crore TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) each year, “significantly” reducing cost for goods moved between the two trading hubs, said Nasser Rizvi, deputy managing director of SAPL.

The Tk 236.4 crore project cost includes Tk 165 crore jointly funded by the Investment Promotion and Financing Facility, the World Bank and a syndication of financial institutions.

The Industrial and Infrastructure Development Finance Co Ltd (IIDFC) will lead the financing and represent the project.

Summit Alliance, first publicly listed off-dock container yard in Bangladesh, has been in the cargo import and export since 2003.

The fully customs-bonded inland container terminal with a container freight station will compete with road and rail routes, the main mode for transporting sea-bound goods between Dhaka and Chittagong now.

Md Asaduzzaman Khan, managing director of IIDFC, said it will aim to slash the cost of shipping freight overseas while creating jobs and developing local infrastructure.

Fully 1.9 crore tonnes of dry cargo and containers were cleared through Chittagong in 2006-07. One TEU goods costs Tk 12,000 from Dhaka to Chittagong in covered vans.

While 70 lakh tonnes went via roads, only 33 lakh tonnes used the slower waterways.

“It is possible to load a far larger amount of cargo at a time through a river transport like barge, which easily makes up for the extra time required for shipment through waterways,” Rizvi said.

“Keeping that in mind, we would initially procure four specially built barges, each with a capacity of 100-120 TEUs to transport containers to Chittagong,” he said.

“For imported cargo, the river terminal will be used as a hub for unloading the containers for delivery to the greater Dhaka area.”

SAPL bought the project site from cement manufacturer Holcim.

Danish port consultancy Seaport Innovations Ltd is advising SAPL on vendor selection for machinery and equipment.

The project will create construction and port jobs, and may stabilise the commodity prices, as the cost of transport affects retail prices, said the project officials.

The port will also increase local demand for goods and services, said Rizvi.

mehdi@thedailystar.net

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