Leaders of leading chamber and trade promotion bodies have strongly urged the government to take immediate steps to privatise the operation and management of the under-construction New Mooring Container Terminal (NCT) of Chittagong port.
In a joint statement Sunday, the leaders also demanded to appoint a competent operator having proven track record in such management, following the experience of the neighbouring countries for competitive facilitation of Bangladesh trade.
The signatories to the joint statement included President of International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)-Bangladesh Mahbubur Rahman, President of Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) Mir Nasir Hossain, President of Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Latifur Rahman, President of Dhaka chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) MA Momen, President of Foreign Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Masih Ul Karim, President of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry Saifuzzaman Chowdhury, President of Bangladesh Employers Federation Syed Manzur Elahi, President of Bangladesh Chamber of Industries AK Azad and President of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association Md Fazlul Hoque.
"The selection procedure should be open and transparent through international bidding," the statement added.
It further said extensive use of IT infrastructure as well as most efficient and modern equipment, as in operation at Singapore port, should be a criterion, among others.
"Privatisation of the NCT for efficient handling of cargo and quick clearance of customs will help optimum utilisation of its capacity, thereby achieve the full objective of this new facility," it mentioned.
The statement said that the important decision must be taken on an urgent basis so that the newly developed facility is not left un-utilised for an indefinite period or under-utlilised at a great cost to the nation.
"The efficient operation and management of the container terminals is of utmost importance for Bangladesh, considering its ever-increasing foreign trade and for attracting investment."
The business leaders in their statement said a number of sea-ports of the region such as Port Quasem International Container Terminal of Pakistan, Chennai Container Terminal, Mundra Deep Water Container Port in Gujrat, Nhava Sheba International Container Terminal at Mumbai, Laem Chabana International Container terminal of Thailand and Colombo Sea Port of Sri Lanka have already made substantial improvement of the existing facilities as well as planning huge investments for establishing additional facilities to meet the growing demand of their countries as well as of the regional traffic.
"For efficient, cost-effective and speedy handling of the container terminals, the management and operations of a number of the above terminals have been handed over to private sector on lease while ownership and security remaining with the state," the business leaders' added.
Their statement said the port authorities of a number of countries in the region have launched programmes, which aim to attract private capital into both existing and new facilities.
"In many instances, this has engendered the perception that organisational restructuring (including privatisation) is not only desirable but it is the need of the hour," the statement added.
The business leaders said being the 'gateway' to the outside world for Bangladesh, the Chittagong port could not harness its immense potentials due to inefficient administration, mismanagement as well as man-made operational hazards.
Lack of proper facilities and appropriate trained manpower are not only causing inordinate delays in releasing goods but also adding huge extra cost for doing business, thereby increasingly contributing to the Bangladesh business becoming uncompetitive in a globalised world market.
Chittagong port is, therefore, considered as the most expensive port in the region, the business leaders pointed out.
Location of the Chittagong port at a strategic geographical point with modern container handling facilities will help the port make a positive contribution to the country's trade as well as attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) for the much needed economic upswing, the statement noted.