The country's 12 land ports will be handed over to the private operators in phases under Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangement to boost cross-border trade, official sources said.
The Bangladesh Land Port Authority (BLPA) will transfer the ports in three phases considering their trade handling capacity and strategic locations for having a positive impact on bilateral trade with the neighbouring countries.
Under the first phase, the operations of five land ports will be handed over to the private sector by the end of this year to facilitate border trade with the neighbouring countries.
"We are hopeful about handing over at least five ports in the first phase to the private operators by the end of this year," a BLPA senior official told the FE, adding that the pre-qualification assessment of the bidders has already been completed by the concerned authorities.
The ports that will be handed over in first phase are: Sona Masjid in Chapai Nawabganj, Hili and Birol in Dinajpur, Banglabandha in Panchagarh and Bibir Bazar in Comilla.
Earlier, the government decided to boost trade relations with Nepal and Bhutan by enhancing the operational capacity of Banglabandha land port, the sources confirmed.
In the second phase, the operations of four ports will go to the private sector by the next year.
Teknaf in Cox's Bazar, Tamabil in Sylhet, Akhaura in Brahmanbaria and Burimari in Lalmonirhat will be handed over to the private operators under the second phase.
Under the third phase, Bhomra in Shatkhira, Darshona in Chuadanga and Halughat in Mymensingh will also be transferred to the private sector after successful completion of the first and second phases.
The BLPA will directly control the operations of the land ports as a regulatory body before handing over the ports to the private sector, the sources added.
The BLPA, however, extended the tenure of leasing period for Teknaf land port in Cox's Bazar by one year.
M/S Univam Port Services was selected to manage the Teknaf land port in November 2003 as a test case to improve its operation.
Revenue earnings from the Teknaf land port have improved significantly as the authorities collected Tk 600 million annually. The annual revenue earnings were only Tk 50 million before the handover of the port management to the private sector, the sources added.