Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan on Saturday said the Pangaon Container Terminal (PCT) in Narayanganj will start its full operation by April this year.
"The operation of PCT will not only reduce the transportation cost of commodities between Chittagong Port and the capital but also save businessmen's time," he said while speaking at inaugural session of a two-day long workshop.
Shippers' Council of Bangladesh (SCB) organised the workshop styled "Cost-effective import-export of cargo under multimodel transport system" at the auditorium of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) in the city.
SCB chairman Nasiruddin Ahmed Chowdhury presided over the session while consultant of Standard Chartered Bank Brig Gen (retd) Mofizur Rahman moderated it.
Habibullah N Karim, president of Technohaven, presented the keynote paper at the inaugural session of the workshop.
The minister said the government is actively considering building of Sonadia deep sea port in a bid to make Bangladesh an important international trade centre among the South and Southeast Asian countries of the world.
Shahjahan Khan formally inaugurated the two-day workshop as the chief guest.
Commodore Zobair Ahmed, director general of Department of Shipping, and Syed Manjurul Islam, secretary of Shipping Ministry and DCCI president Sabur Khan addressed the workshop as special guests.
Director of BRAC Business School at BRAC University Mamun Rashid, Vice President of Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CITL) Karar Mahmudul Hassan and president of Foreign Investors' Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Syed Ershad Ahmed spoke as designated discussants.
Shahjahan Khan said the government has a plan to help manufacture more ships at the private sector level and increase Bangladesh Shipping Corporation's fleet to prevent frequent freight hike and imposition of various surcharges by the foreign shipping lines,
"The government has taken many steps to develop highways, river routes and railways and to improve facilities for loading and unloading of goods in the port," he said.
Shajahan Khan said a process is underway to bring all trade-related activities at ports and customs under automation to keep pace with trends in the international trade.
He hoped that multimodal transport system could give a big boost to the country's trade and commerce.
Referring to the computerised terminal management system (CTMS) at Chittagong Port, the minister said the port's efficiency has been increased to a great extent with this technological advancement.
The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation has taken initiatives to build two passenger vessels, which will be pressed into service by November this year, he pointed out.
The minister said in order to ensure speedy and efficient plying of goods and passengers, four water buses will be made available by this month. The work on building seven more utility ferries and four water buses has started.
Habibullah N Karim, in his presentation, called upon the government and the trade sector stakeholders to introduce multimodal transport system for cost- effective import and export of cargo.
Application of information technology (IT) should be the integral part in every trade process for efficient business activities, he said. Karim favoured setting up of a central coordination cell involving relevant ministries to look into IT- driven trade endeavours.
Karim said a lot of IT related developments have taken place in the country. There should now be a coordination cell comprising all relevant ministries to oversee IT-driven businesses, he suggested.
Mamun Rashid said a multimodal transport system is indispensable for an emerging trading nation like Bangladesh in the ever-changing global trade pattern.
"We need to gear up our journey and this system will make global supply chain efficient to be a part of regional integration," he said.
Rashid underlined the need for application of more IT-enabled solutions, e- commerce and e-payment saying that a multimodal transport system is needed not only for an integrated transportation system but also for enabling Bangladesh to be a part of global supply chain.
Zobair Ahmed said a multimodal transport system is not only a requirement for Bangladesh rather it is a necessity for giving a boost to the country's trade and commerce.
Karar Mahmudul Hassan sought more coordination among relevant ministries related to IT sector to increase the use of information technology in the business sector.
FICCI President Syed Ershad said, there is no alternative to introduction of IT- enabled services in trade in the intensifying global trade competition.
DCCI president Md Sabur Khan suggested the government to introduce bar-coding or smart phone system in transportation system.
"Now-a-days, it is possible to maintain communication process and information through smart phones," Sabur said underscoring the need for automation of transportation sector.
Commodore Zobair Ahmed said there are 68 Bangladeshi flag vessels, which will be increased gradually.
"We want to reduce the country's dependence on foreign shipping lines," he said.