Will change country’s economy
Mahfuja Mukul: The only hill island upazila of the country, Maheshkhali Matarbari, is going on a huge campaign. Along with the power plant, the under construction of a deep-sea port is progressing in this union, which is famous for salt cultivation near the Bay of Bengal. In the meantime, the activities of the port have started to be visible. When commissioned in 2026, the seaport will become a regional hub in South Asia.
The mother vessel will arrive. Saving $5 billion a year will change the economy of the entire country.
Those concerned said that at Matarbari port, cargo ships of 18 and a half meters draft (depth) can be accommodated there. No other port in South Asia has such a seaport for mother vessels (large ships). So, this port will become a regional hub. The economy of Bangladesh will change.
Matarbari is located 65 kilometers (34 nautical miles) from Chittagong port. Now Chittagong port can accommodate ships with a maximum length of 200 meters and a draft of 10 meters. No mother vessel handling capacity.
Goods are to be discharged by lighterage vessels. In case of export to European countries, the goods have to be sent through Singapore or other ports. If Matarbari, the time and cost of importing and exporting goods from Bangladesh will be reduced.
Officials of the Ministry of Shipping believe that $5 billion will be saved annually due to Matarbari port.
It is known that the construction work of Matarbari port started in January 2020. The expenditure has been estimated at around Tk 18,000 crores. Meanwhile the port channel is ready. In the first phase, construction of jetty, terminal, purchase of necessary equipment and ships for the port is underway. The construction of link road to connect the port is also progressing at a fast pace.
To visit Matarbari on land, it takes two hours to reach Matarbari by leaving the Coast Guard ship at 10 am from Chittagong Boat Club Jetty. The beginning of the channel is marked by buoys in the sea. After that, you can see the defense dam (breakwater) built on both sides. Temporary jetty along the embankment on the north side. Matarbari port will be on the south side of the embankment.
Go down to the temporary jetty and go east to the Matarbari coal-based power plant. This is where the channel ends. In front of the power plant is the jetty of the coal ship Vedara. The port area starts when you turn west. The place is still a salt production field. The site where the two jetties will be constructed in the first phase is marked with a red flag.
Various constructions of power plants and townships are going on in a large area in the east. The road connecting the port with Matarbari, Maheshkhali and Chakaria areas is also going on in full swing.
Progress work of the port
The cost of construction of Matarbari port and connecting road has been estimated at Tk 17,777 crores. Of this, Tk 8,955 crores will be spent on ports and Tk 8,821 crores on roads. Tk 12,892 crores will be given by Japan Government Development Agency (JICA). The remaining amount will be paid from the government fund.
Chittagong Port Authority is working on port construction. Initially Matarbari Port will be managed under Chittagong Port. And the work of connecting roads is done by the Directorate of Roads and Public Ways. JICA is overseeing the overall activities.
Mir Zahid Hasan, Project Director of Chittagong Port Authority of Matarbari Port Development Project, said, “The place where the jetty will be, has been surrounded with red flags. The entire area will be dredged. There will be three procurement activities in the construction of the port. The JT terminal yard and ancillary buildings will be constructed through the civil package. Through package-2 we will purchase cargo handling equipment. These include two gantry cranes.
There is one multipurpose gantry crane, six rubber tire gantry cranes, two reach stackers and other machinery. We will buy a few boats through Package-2B. These include survey boats, pilot boats and tugboats.
“The technical evaluation of the civil package has been completed,” he said. Sent for JICA’s non-objection. Technical evaluation of package-2A has also been completed. For the first time we did not get any tender for Package-2B. Tenders have been called again. Hopefully it will drop on April 17.
Chittagong Port Authority Chief Hydrographer Commander M Arifur Rahman said, ‘Matarbari was originally a salt field. It is not that people have to be evicted and ported there. Only 40 houses fell. They are being rehabilitated.
He said, “Land acquisition, which is the biggest challenge in project implementation in our country, does not exist in this case. It will be launched at the scheduled time. In the meantime, the detailed design of Matarbari port has been completed. The issues of land re-settlement have also been resolved.
In the first phase, there will be two jetties of 700 meters. There will be a terminal. Each jetty can accommodate two vessels of 300 meters length. After 2026, there will be eight more jetties, four on each side in the second phase.
Arifur Rahman said, “The channel is 350 meters wide. The depth will be 18 and a half meters. The channel starts from the southern end of Qutubdia channel.
There are breakwaters (protection dams) on either side of the channel. 3,700 meters on the north side and 2,600 meters on the south side. Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) has taken five thousand acres of land. He also said that 131 acres of land has been acquired for the port.
The project director of road part of Matarbari development project Zakir Hossain said, ‘We are implementing a project to increase the capacity of Matarbari port through the connection with the national highway. The total length of the connecting road is 27 km. The road will have four lanes. We have divided the 27 km into three parts and invited tenders. There are a total of 14 bridges in the three packages, of which two are railway overpasses.
He also said that after the technical evaluation of the tender, it has been sent to JICA.
The total cost of the project (road) is Tk 8,821 crores. Out of this, JICA will give Tk 6,150 crores and the government will give Tk 2,715 crores. We hope to complete the link road work by December 2026.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said, “We can start operations of Matarbari port in 2026. Initialization processes have already been completed. There is a need for a deep-sea port in Bangladesh. The prime minister has been saying this since he came to the country in 1981. Unable to use our vast marine area. We have to use this sea border to increase our capacity in the international arena. Matarbari deep seaport is now visible.
Chances are tight
Chairman of Chittagong Port Authority Rear Admiral M Shahjahan said, “If Matarbari is opened, the ship fare will be reduced to one-third. If it is a hub, a new service will be launched from here. That is the feeder service between Matarbari-Payra, Matarbari-Chittagong, Matarbari-Mongla i.e. from Matarbari to other regional ports. The product which used to cost $3000 will be reduced to $1000 if it is Matarbari.
Stating that the size of the import-export trade is now 120 billion US dollars every year, he said, “If 12 percent of this is taken as rent, $12 billion goes to rent.” This port will be very useful for us, helpful for our economy. It will have a positive impact on our reserves.
We don’t have to pay transshipment charges anywhere. I will be self-reliant. Now it takes 14 days for transshipment to Singapore to send goods to Europe. When Matarbari starts, it will no longer exist.
Shahjahan said that if the products reach different countries directly, both time and cost will be reduced, then we will compete with other countries. If the products arrive on time, we will get more orders.’
He also said, ‘Now when the container arrives at Chittagong port, it remains free for four days. Detention charges are then imposed. We don’t get that, MLOs get that. The fixed operating cost of the vessel is borne by the feeder vessel operators. When I bring the mother vessel here, it won’t take more ships, and it won’t take ship time. Ships will arrive directly, depart directly. We will save billions of dollars in detention charges and fixed operating costs.
Project Director Mir Zahid Hasan said, ‘If the first phase of the project is completed, we expect to be able to bring in 1.6 to 1.1 million TEUS (20 feet equivalent) products every year after 2026. By 2041, our target will be 1.4 to 4.2 million TEUS.
Chittagong Port Authority Chief Hydrographer Arifur Rahman said, ‘If we can open this port in 2026, we will not have to depend on Singapore or any other hub port. From here, ships with a draft of 18 meters can go to any part of the world. This will reduce our export costs a lot, because the time will be reduced a lot.
He said, ‘Situi in Myanmar, Haldia in Kolkata, Baizak, Andaman in this belt of the Bay of Bengal cannot be crowded in any port with a draft of more than 16 meters. If this port is here, it can be the regional hub here.
“The investment that will be made to build the port at Matarbari will return within 7 to 8 years. Now Chittagong Port earns a net profit of Tk 800 to Tk 900 crore every year. Construction of Matarbari port infrastructure will cost about Tk 9,000 crore. It will come up in 7-8 years. Tk 1,200 to Tk 1,500 crores will be earned every year.
Now it takes 45 days for any product to go from Bangladesh to America, Arifur Rahman said, ‘It will take only 23 days to go directly from Matarbari. Less time will reduce costs. If we say everything, Matarbari will save us five billion dollars every year.
He also said, “We will then compete with the ports of Colombo and Singapore.” Those who come to the northern belt of the Bay of Bengal have only one option, Matarbari. Because none of the nearby ports can handle such a large ship. India, Nepal, Bhutan have to use this port. Haldia Port of Kolkata can accommodate only 7.5 meter draft ships. Where the cost is less, everyone will naturally go there.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said, “If Matarbari is a port, our time and cost will be reduced. It will have a huge impact on our economy. There were salt fields here. There is a smart city and a smart port. The smartness here will surpass even Singapore.
Member of Parliament for Cox’s Bazar-2 (Qutubdia-Maheshkhali) Constituency Ashek Ullah Rafiq said, ‘Here we used to cultivate salt and produce shrimp. Now the quality of life of the people here is changing as well as the profession.
We are moving forward in education. There are possibilities here in the coming days. Economic activities including deep sea ports, economic zones, power hubs are taking place. Trying to do technical college and university. People are being involved in these activities by increasing their skills through training.
“Through these projects, the quality of life of the people here will improve. The anger or frustration that people had in the initial phase, after being brought to the notice of the Prime Minister, has been overcompensated because he took special initiatives. I am getting support from the concerned for employment. People are moving from one stage to another. They are getting used to it.
Member of Parliament Ashek Ullah also said, ‘All those who were involved in employment here, who were scattered on the embankment, have been rehabilitated with additional compensation. It is still ongoing.
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