Bangladesh’s Matarbari Deep Sea Port offers new prospects of maritime connectivity, economic growth
By: Kamal Uddin Mazumder
In the Maheshkhali area of Cox’s Bazar, on Matarbari Island, the government is building a deep-sea port. This area has long been well-known for tourists. Cox’s Bazar will become well-known for its maritime facilities once this port is constructed. It will present fresh opportunities for the nation’s maritime industry. This is because deep seaports allow for the simultaneous transportation of massive amounts of cargo by large ships. It takes less time and is less expensive to carry things as a result.
The demand for shipping via seaways has grown recently on a global scale. The Chittagong Port, where the volume of container handling has also expanded quickly due to the rise in seaborne imports and exports, reflects this scenario as well. Chittagong port handled over 32.55 lakh TEUs of containers in 2021–2022 According to experts, if the current rate of container handling growth continues, the nation’s yearly container handling volume will most certainly reach 140 lakh TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) by 2041. This many containers and ships will be too much for the nation’s present seaports to handle. Given this situation, the government decided to establish Matarbari Deep Sea Port in order to relieve some of the burden on Chittagong Port and increase its ability to handle a huge number of ships and cargo. This seaport is anticipated to handle 11 lakh TEU containers through the project’s realization by 2026, and 42 lakhs by 2041.
The government has launched 36 more projects in addition to the deep-sea port to maximize the maritime and other economic benefits of Matarbari. Among the development projects are the construction of coal-fired power stations, special economic zones, coal jetties, LNG terminals, fuel transportation pipelines, petroleum complexes, etc. In November of last year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina gave the go-ahead to establish a council to oversee all development initiatives in Matarbari. Involved in these programs are numerous development partners. Future developments will undoubtedly see Matarbari become the nation’s and South Asia’s commercial center.
The seaports in Chittagong and Mongla are not deep-sea ports. Deep draft ships are unable to dock at some ports’ jetties as a result. The “Matarbari Port Development” project has been designated as the top priority in order to guarantee the jetty facilities for deep draft boats. It has also been incorporated into the government’s fast-track programs.
While current seaports can only accommodate ships with a 9-meter draft, the deep seaport at Matarbari will offer a minimum of 16 meters of a draft. As a result, the ships carrying 8000 containers will be able to dock at the Matarbari port that is now being built.
On November 16, 2020, the port’s first phase of construction got under way. The project calls for building a 14.3-km waterway, a 300-meter multipurpose jetty, and a 460-meter container jetty. The depth of the channel will be 16 meters and the width will be 350 meters. In addition, the Chittagong Port Authority will purchase three tugboats, two key-gantry cranes, a multipurpose gantry crane, six rubber-tired gantry cranes, and a 397-meter extension of the North Breakwater dam. By December 2026, the project is expected to be completed.
Road, rail, and river connectivity at Matarbari Port will be carefully developed. Products that are imported and exported will thus do so quickly and affordably. The port will make it easier to import goods including steel, scrap iron, cement, clinker, liquid natural gas (LNG), crude oil, and items that are similar to oil.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Ministry of Shipping are helping the Chittagong Port Authority build the Matarbari Port, which will cost 17,777 crore takas. JICA is lending 12 thousand 892 crores out of this total, the Bangladeshi government is contributing 2 thousand 671 crores, and the Chittagong Port Authority is contributing 2 thousand 213 crores from its fund. The Cox’s Bazar district administration has given 283.27 acres of land to the Chittagong Port Authority for the project’s implementation.
According to a JICA survey report, the terrain of Kashima and Matarbari in Japan is quite similar. Therefore, Matarbari Port can be connected to the sea by building a channel, just like the Kashima Seaport. A breakwater dam will be built to stop water flow in order to prevent silt buildup in the channel.
However, Matarbari Port will be 2.5 times larger than Kashima Seaport despite being constructed after it. Without a doubt, it will bring about radical changes in the nation’s entire economy. This new deep seaport will mark a significant step toward the development of the nation. It will hasten our progress toward becoming one of the developed and rich nations.
The port will grow to be one of the key hubs of trade and business in South Asia as a result of its geographic advantages and deep-sea port capabilities. So, this port might be used by our neighbors’ nations. Along with Matarbari Deep Seaport, 36 development projects, like as power plants and special economic zones, are being carried out there by various government agencies. In the days to come, there will be a significant amount of foreign investment at Matarbari, and the nation’s trade and business will pick up speed. The extensive construction projects at Matarbari will significantly alter the nation’s economic landscape.
The writer is Researcher and Strategic affairs analyst, Dhaka, Bangladesh