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Shorter wait times at anchorage as congestion eases at Chittagong port

CONGESTION at the port of Chittagong in Bangladesh is improving with ships waiting at outer anchorage for between two and three days now, compared with eight to 10 days since April. Vessel turnaround times have been reduced to 48 hours compared with 60 hours earlier this year, according to port spokesman Zafar Alam.

"We need long-term planning. We need to raise the number of jetties and equipment to cope up with the growing trade pressure," chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, Ahsanul Huq Chowdhury, was quoted as saying in a report by IHS Media.

The delays, which intensified after an accident this summer took out of service half of the port's ship-to-shore gantry crane capacity, have their roots in several factors.

One contributor to the congestion is the small container yard at the port and a lack of container handling equipment. The port has implemented measures to resolve those issues, by taking delivery of and ordering more yard equipment as well as revamping operations to make better use of limited space.

For example, customs has cut the percentage of containers that are physically inspected down to 14 per cent, compared with 30 per cent previously. The inspections take place in the port container yard, so the change has freed up more space and improved productivity.

"The major problem for the Chittagong port was delivery of goods, which slowed down loading and unloading, causing long vessel queues. Following the introduction of 24-hour work, goods are now being delivered at night, improving the situation," Mr Alam said.

In addition to receiving 46 pieces of container-handling equipment in September, the Chittagong port authority in October signed a deal with Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Company to purchase six rail-mounted quay gantry cranes. In fiscal year 2016 to 2017 the port bought 71 pieces of equipment and plans to acquire 252 more pieces over the next fiscal year.

With a number of new terminals under construction, the port hopes to eventually solve its congestion problems. Work is currently under way on the Bay Terminal, Laldia Multi-purpose Terminal, Patenga Container Terminal, and Karnaphuli Container Terminal. The Patenga terminal is due to open in 2019, followed by the Laldia terminal in 2020, and the Bay terminal in 2021.
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