BANGLADESH PORT BOOM BEGINS
Bangladesh is cranking up its efforts to deliver major new port capacity – five key projects are now being actively progressed. Mike Mundy assesses progress to-date and what next.
Bangladesh is on the path to boosting its port capacity despite the setbacks to its economy presented by COVID-19. Presently, five major port projects are in the pipeline:
- Bay Terminal in #Chittagong
- Patenga Container Terminal
- #Matarbari_Port, Cox’s Bazaar
- #Payra_Port, and
The selection of the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA), under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme, to take the Bay Terminal project forward together with Chittagong Port represents a significant step forward – significant in terms of achieving a definite timeline for the introduction of major new container capacity and significant as regards the introduction of foreign expertise into Bangladesh’s port sector.
The idea of the latter – injecting foreign expertise – has been around for a long time, over a decade, but up until the ‘signing up’ of PSA there hadn’t really been tangible progress in this respect.
This step follows recognition by the Government of Bangladesh of the importance of building new port infrastructure to support both export and import activity as well as the surmounting of the wishes of domestic parties to implement port projects.
With the Bay Terminal project, for instance, it is known that the Chittagong Port Authority had submitted its own proposal to the Ministry of Shipping to implement the project on a solo basis.
The development and operation of the Patenga Container Terminal is also expected to involve foreign participation with DP World and Red Sea Gateway Terminal of Saudi Arabia identified as the frontrunners in this respect.
There is also every reason to believe that other port projects will harness foreign expertise for terminal development and operation as Bangladesh makes serious efforts to crank up its port capacity to fuel its economic objectives.
So far it has done so via the approaches of individual companies but hopefully the future will see a more broad-based call for tenders implemented by the Bangladesh Public Private Partnership Agency which has demonstrated its ability to do this in conjunction with dry bulk terminal projects.
Global experience underlines the promise of potentially greater benefits to the host country via the application of this type of tried and tested process.
MATCHING CAPACITY TO DEMAND
In 2019 the port of Chittagong handled 3,088,187TEU, up 6.3 per cent over the 2018 volume of 2,903,966TEU. In 2017 the port experienced an even higher level of growth, 2,556,597TEU an increase of more than nine per cent over 2016.
While Covid-19 is inevitably expected to slow growth in the current year and possibly beyond there is no question that growth will be maintained and that as COVID-19 dissipates that there will be a return to higher end growth rates.
The Hamburg Port Consulting forecast for future container traffic for Chittagong Port, contained in its September 2015 People’s Republic of Bangladesh: Strategic Master Plan for Chittagong Port, foresees 5.4 million TEU by 2040 but it is notable that the port has already sailed past the 2020 forecast of 2.7 million TEU for 2020 exceeding this by a wide margin in 2019.
The pattern of container distribution is 30 per cent in the Chittagong region and 70 per cent Dhaka with to-date Chittagong port handling in excess of 90 per cent of Bangladesh’s maritime trade. Inevitably there has been growing pressure on Chittagong Port as volumes have risen driven in large part by Bangladesh’s ever rising garment exports.
Vessel delays have proved a regular occurrence although some respite has been achieved through comprehensive new cargo handling equipment purchases. The latter, however, is not a finite solution and new port capacity, especially container capacity is a must. Equally, as part of this Bangladesh wishes to bring down its logistic cost to build both export and import competitiveness.
On the waterside, practically speaking this means achieving deeper draught port capacity and inland improved connectivity – the latter is underlined in Figure 1 which highlights projected container traffic in conjunction with Dhaka. Accordingly, extensive plans have been laid for road, rail and inland waterway system improvements in conjunction with the major port projects.
CLEARING THE PATH
Decision making delays, lack of planning, politics, corruption and other factors have traditionally acted as a brake on logistic projects implementation in Bangladesh.
Step-by-step, however, it now seems that these impediments are being dissipated as the importance of putting in place the right infrastructure, port and connecting infrastructure, rises up the development agenda in line with economic objectives.
The five major port projects now all being actively progressed, are a testament to this, and without doubt there is more to come.
BANGLADESH: PORT EXPANSION PROJECTS, PROGRESS AND PLANS
NEAR CHITTAGONG CLUSTER PROJECTS
The Bay Terminal
Project: Major new port area.
Location: On the coast of the Patenga Halishahhar area, six kilometres from Chittagong Port.
Foreign Participation: Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) nominated to be involved in development and operation.
Timeline: Imminent development. PSA’s participation was formally announced in September 2020. It is understood that the Chittagong Port Authority and Public Private Partnership (PPP) Authority will originate the project timeline and then consult on this with PSA prior to finalisation.
Scope of Project: The development site spans some 871 acres of existing land and will also utilise another 1600 acres reclaimed from the sea – a site multiple times larger than the current Chittagong Port. Reportedly vessels with a draught up to 12m and length of up to 190m will be able to be accommodated – a step up from the current Chittagong port facilities which can only accept vessels with a draught up to 9m. The Bay Terminal will be located 800m from the shore with vessel access planned via a dredged channel and protection provided against the omnipresent problems of sea rise and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. When complete the Bay Terminal will comprise multiple port facilities with reports suggesting this will include two container terminals, a multi-purpose terminal and numerous other facilities. It will also offer improved landside access with road traffic benefitting from being able to move directly to the Dhaka-Chittagong highway avoiding traditional congestion points. Additionally, there are plans to increase road capacity particularly to cater for projected substantial increases in container traffic.
Access: Marine: Draught will be provided for vessels of up to 12m and compared to the existing Chittagong Port LOA restrictions due to the navigability of the river will no longer apply. Thus, the Bay Container Terminal will be able to handle larger vessels of the Panamax and post-Panamax type.
Road: The Bay Terminal is located next to the Port Link Road, connecting the N1 Highway to Dhaka with the existing port.
Rail: The railway line Chittagong – Dhaka is within close vicinity.
Patenga Container Terminal
Project: New Container Terminal
Location: Between Chittagong Dry Dock and the Boat Club in Patenga – approximately 14km south of Chittagong.
Foreign Participation: DP World and Red Sea Gateway Terminal have been selected by the Shipping Ministry as the preferred candidates to operate the new Patenga Container Terminal – July 2020. Some reports suggest that both companies could attain operator status but it is thought more likely that one of the two will be selected.
Timeline: The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is presently constructing the Patenga Container Terminal on a self-funding basis. Construction is understood to be at an advanced stage and expected to be completed in the immediate future.
Scope of Project: Container terminal located on 26 acres of land with a 600m quay line. The incoming operator will be responsible for equipment provision.
Access: Marine: Near to the mouth of the Karnaphuli River.
Road: New road inks are being provided as part of the overall terminal development.
Rail: Rail linkage is to be provided.
SOUTH OF CHITTAGONG
Matarbari Port – Cox’s Bazaar
Project: The construction of a deep-water port facility. The project was officially sanctioned by Bangladesh’s highest economic policy body, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in March this year.
Location: Matarbari, Cox’s Bazaar is located 150 kilometres (93 miles) south of Chittagong.
Foreign Participation: In September of this year an agreement was signed with Nippon Koei Joint Venture of Japan to provide engineering services related to the port development. At the same time, an agreement was also signed with another Japanese firm, a joint venture of Oriental Consultants Global Co Ltd, DDC Ltd and BCL Ltd, as the consulting entity to provide engineering services for the related roads and highway component of the project. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is providing finance for the new port project together with the Government of Bangladesh.
Timeline: Phase one development is scheduled to be completed by 2026. The coal power plant is expected to be in operation in mid-2023.
Scope of Project: This new port project flowed out of the project underway to establish a coal-fired power plant in Matarbari. This project is based on a deal signed by the state-owned Coal Power Generation Company (CPGCBL) with the Japanese consortium of Sumitomo Corporation, Toshiba Corporation and IHI Corporation. The potential was identified to further develop Matarbari as an economic hub incorporating a deep-water port. The Phase One development of the new port will reportedly include: an 18-hectare container terminal with a 460m quay and a multi-purpose terminal with a 300m quay. Annual container terminal capacity is put at 600,000TEU+ and multi-purpose terminal capacity at 2.25 million tonnes. Under the Phase Two development plans provide for the container terminal to expanded to 70ha with a 1850m quay.
Access: Marine: will be provided via a 15km long channel, 350m wide with a draught of 16m.
Road: the new Matarbari Access Road will connect with National Highway No 1.
Rail: connection also planned with the idea being to accommodate double-stack rail cars as part of overall plans to beef up rail freight capacity.
Project: A new port, partially operational, intended to cater for the handling of diverse cargoes. The Payra Sea Port Act 2013 established the Payra Port Authority. A strong role for the port is seen in conjunction with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
Location: West Bank of the Rabnabad Channel, Payra Port, Kalapara in the sub-district of Patuakhali.
Foreign Participation: Port development initially proposed as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative but with financing eventually provided by India and from other sources.
Timeline: The port began basic operations in August 2016 and further development is now being rolled out.
Scope of Project: The proposed location of Payra Seaport is naturally shallow in depth and requires large scale dredging for vessels to achieve efficient access. The international dredging contractor Jan De Nul secured the contract for capital and maintenance dredging for the port over a 10-year period on a concession basis. Jan De Nul’s project works centre on the dredging of a 75-kilometre path through the Rabnabad Channel to the Bay of Bengal. Initial dredging cost is put at US$963 million.
The work entails the removal of over 100 million cubic metric tons of sediment with natural tidal currents forecast to constantly bring sediment back into the channel. This will require nonstop dredging to ensure that the channel maintains an adequate depth – an aspect that has raised serious questions among leading hydraulics experts. Specifically, the point is made that even a single cyclone, an occurrence that regularly ravages Bangladesh’s coastline, could completely fill the channel resulting in trapped vessels.
The development of port facilities is being undertaken on a three-phase basis – the first phase comprising the dredging works, scheduled to run from April this year through to 2021 and to take the channel depth down from four metres to 10.50m.
The full port construction project as per original plan has 19 components, 13 to be implemented under foreign direct investment and the remaining six implemented via government to government deals. China Harbour Engineering Company and China State Engineering and Construction Company have been awarded contracts to the value of US$600 million to develop two of the 19 components. Terminal development will include multi-purpose, bulk and container terminals with the first new terminal expected to be completed by 2022.
Access: Marine: HR Wallingford, a UK-based consultant to Payra port, has developed a 35 nautical mile-long channel dredging plan from the Rabnabad channel to the outer anchorage. Intensive capital dredging followed by maintenance dredging is essential to implement the designed channel navigable for 16 metre draught vessels.
Road: Presently there is a two-lane national highway connection with the capital city Dhaka with the distance between Payara Port and Dhaka totalling approximately 235km. The Government has laid plans to expand the existing highway into four lanes and to construct a 5.6km connecting road from Payra Port to the Patuakhali highway.
Rail: A new rail connection forms part of the development plan. Inland Waterways: Existing river routes are suitable for vessels with a draught of up to 5m for the carriage of goods inland. The distance via waterways to Dhaka is 267km, almost the same as from Chittagong port.
Project: Mongola Port is the second largest port in Bangladesh and the main port for the country’s western region. It is the focus of a major upgrade project intended to consolidate and expand its prominent position including fulfilling the role of boosting trade with India, Bhutan and Nepal.
Location: The port is located in Bagerhat District in the southwestern part of the country; and lies 62 km (39 miles) north of the Bay of Bengal coastline. Foreign Participation: India has extended lines of credit in excess of US$500 million as part of the financing for the port upgrades.
Timeline: Dredging projects have been initiated and new terminal development plans are expected to yield results by 2024-2025.
Scope of Project: The upgrade project comprises 12 key components including construction of two container terminals.
Access: Marine: The port is situated at the confluence of the Possur River and Mongla Nulla approximately 71 nautical miles upstream of the Bay of Bengal. Once the dredging of the inner and outer bars is finished, container vessels with draughts of up to 10m will be able to access the port. Dredging works are planned for the inner bar which extends from Mongola Port Jetty to Joymonirghol with implementation expected around mid-2022. This will facilitate access for vessels with draughts of 9.5 to 10m. The Outer Bar extends from the Mongola Port Channel to the Bay of Bengal and has already been the scene of significant dredging activity – including by the Hong Kong River Engineering Company and China Civil Engineering Construction Company – to provide access for vessels with a draught of up to 10m.
Road: In 2018 the government-initiated road and rail system development in conjunction with the port – roads for all-round regional connectivity and rail lines connecting Mongola to Kolkata via Nepal and Bhutan.
Rail: Connection is provided to the rail terminal at Khulna.
The weather in Bangladesh is largely governed by the monsoon. The prevailing wind directions are from south to south east during the month of April through September. After taking an easterly direction for a while, the wind turns to the northerly and north easterly directions, The latter prevail from November to January.
During the month of February and March, winds turn via westerly direction back to the transition periods between monsoons, October and November, extremes of inclement weather like cyclones often occur with wind velocity in excess of 30 knots.
The waves are generally low showing a distinct relation with the wind. The waves period vary between 3-4 seconds generating waves of about 0.5 meters and about 6 seconds for waves of 2 meters.
During the months May to October, freshets are expected. Freshets are caused by the normal velocity of flow of EBB tide augmented by flow of additional volume of water that drains into the river Karnafully from the catchment areas.