Chittagong port’s vital competitiveness

The Chittagong port is the most important gateway for the external trade of Bangladesh. This is because it handles nearly 90 per cent of the country’s export and import cargoes. The growth of the volume of business at Chittagong port is 14 per cent per annum and this growth is expected to shoot up rapidly even in the near future. Thus, the great significance of this port for the national economy should be obvious. Only from running it efficiently leading to cutting down on handling time at different stages, substantially better earnings and security of the country’s export trade can be achieved and optimum gains made from import operations.
The immediate past caretaker government gave focused attention to improving the operations of this port in all respects. The results have been very impressive. Indeed, the improved functioning of the Chittagong port was counted as one of the few worthwhile achievements of the caretaker administration. But it seems that the good days of Chittagong port could be over soon if the policy planners at the highest level of the government do not immediately realize the very great importance of taking hard steps to absolutely retain and build further on these achievements. Not only that, they should follow the same up with even more resolved actions for the attainment of the highest capacities of this port. This is important because vested interests who were at the root of the under performance of the port far below its potential, are probably once again stirring and have made some progress in staging a comeback.
For further gains from the port’s operations, government should adopt and execute a plan at the fastest to build at least one expressway in the strategic business corridor between Dhaka and Chittagong. The plan on its implementation can lead to saving of some 50,000 million taka annually for businesses from substantial reduction of transportation costs on the corridor.
The reduction of this cost is only one aspect of the benefits from this project. The competitiveness of the export oriented industries, specially of garments, would increase significantly after it is built. The expressway would help mightily in shortening the crucial lead time for garments exporters in both carrying imported raw materials to production destinations swiftly and similarly cut down on the time to reach finished products at the port for loading on ships. Not only costs would fall for industries geared to exports, transportation costs of all types of consumer and essential goods from Chittagong would likely fall notably from their faster dispatch and hence reduced transportation costs.
The projected four-lane expressway will cut down the time of movement between Dhaka and Chittagong for business cargoes by nearly four hours. It takes an average of at least seven hours now for a container laden truck to reach Chittagong from Dhaka using the existing Dhaka-Chittagong highway. The expressway would be an exclusive one for high speed travel by vehicles carrying only business cargoes.
Apart from this expressway government should also give attention simultaneously to building inland container depots (ICDs) to be supportive of both the port and the expressway.