Ctg port expansion on unused railway lands can ease congestion: CMCCI

Dhaka,  Wed,  20 September 2017
Published : 07 Aug 2017, 23:59:57

Ctg port expansion on unused railway lands can ease congestion: CMCCI

Pankaj Dastider

CHITTAGONG, Aug 07: The ongoing congestion in the major Chittagong Port could greatly be eased with the port's expansion on 65 acres of unused lands now lying under the control of the Bangladesh Railway (BR).

The Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CMCCI) highlighted such a need in its letter to the Prime Minister's Office on August 05.

 This will facilitate the port's handling capacity through extension of its area and construction of the necessary infrastructures there, the chamber said.

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is yet to get back its lands from the BR as per an agreement despite strong demands of port users, exporters, importers and businesses for extension of area of the Chittagong port.

 Sources in the CPA said the port had failed to commission its newly-constructed car and auction sheds from 2015 until recently without a connecting road on the land which is in possession of the Bangladesh Railway (East zone).

 The 300-metre long and seven-metre wide connecting road of the CPA is the only entrance to car and auction sheds which remained without any use for two years.

 Under the Port Development Project, the Chittagong Port Trust acquired 14 acres of land through the Railway authority in 1955-56.

The port authority planned to construct a truck terminal on the land but it is yet to implement the project as the land is still with the Railway authority.

 Sources said the Chittagong Port and Railway East were unified since the British rule in the Indian subcontinent.

During the 1953-58 period of the Pakistan era, Chittagong Port acquired 920 acres of land in 10 mouzas through the Railway under the Port Development Project.

 After separation of the unified Port Authority and Railway East in 1960, the Railway authority was scheduled to hand over 568 acres of land to the CPA  but it handed 471 acres of land to the port between 1960 and 1980 and another 32 acres of land between 1998 and 2005.

 But the BR is yet to hand over the rest 65 acres of land since the last 57 years.

A committee, headed by additional secretary of the Bangladesh Railway Kamol Krishna Bhattacharjee, is now working out ways to find a solution shortly, sources said.

 Meanwhile, the Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CMCCI) has urged the government to expedite handing over of Railway lands in the port area to the CPA.

This will facilitate the port's handling capacity through extension of its area and construction of the necessary infrastructures there, the chamber said.

 In a letter to Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Dr Kamal Abdul Naser on August 05, CMCCI Vice President AM Mahbub Chowdhury said the Chittagong port is reeling under container congestion and facing logjam of vessels at its outer anchorage in recent months.

 He said export trade faces a negative growth due to imposition of surcharge on cargo in the port and the imported raw materials for different industries face delay in delivery.

 As a result, the special initiative of the Prime Minister to keep all the operational activities of the port and Chittagong Custom House open round the clock from August 01 remains to be executed.

 Mr Chowdhury, also adviser for Port and Customs of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said the pace of business expansion following special initiatives taken by the Prime Minister, is appropriate and has been appreciated by the business community.

 He said the lands in the port area are shared by the CPA and Railway authority but both are governmental organisations.

 He said at the current perspective of the port's activities, its area needs to be doubled to keep pace with the growth of import and export, handling of cargo and calling of vessels at the port from across the globe.

 As the headquarters of the Assam-Bengal Railway was in Chittagong, one-third area of the port city is under control of the Railway authority.

A vast area of the Railway's unused lands, especially the left-out old structures, has turned out to be criminals' den over the decades with trading of drugs, Yaba and unsocial activities.

 He urged the government to bring these railway lands under control of the Chittagong Port Authority for extension of its facilities for the sake of national economy.

 The trade body leader also proposed construction of a railway line in the port area because it will immensely facilitate transportation of railway wagon-based cargo to different destinations of the country.

Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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