Image problem threatening its sustainability
Mongla port suffering colossal losses year after year
Jasim Uddin Haroon
Mongla Port, country's second seaport, has been heaving under huge losses year after year due to dwindling number of vessels in the port, sources said.
The port incurred losses worth Tk 40 million over the last four months from July to October simply due to arrival of lesser number of vessels, according the Mongla Port Authority (MPA).
"We earned Tk 150 million during July-October period of this year while our expenditure during the same time was Tk 190 million", Mohammed Abu Taher, chairman of MPA confirmed.
MPA sources said that it suffered losses to the tune of Tk 120 million in the previous fiscal (2004-05). The port's earning from river dues, berthing and yard usage charges in the period was Tk 460 million while its expenditure was Tk 590 million.
Official statistics showed that Mongla Port incurred Tk 80.04 million losses in 2003-04 fiscal, Tk 50.50 million in 2002-03 fiscal as the arrival of vessels is reducing day by day.
But it posted profit worth Tk 230 million even seven years back in 1998-99 fiscal, port statistics claimed.
Port insiders said that the seaport looked deserted in recent times due to thin presence of vessels in port channels.
There was only one Jamaican flag-carrier - Bugsy - loaded with clinker Monday berthed against its capacity of handling 14-15 vessels a day at its seven jetties including two private ones.
Port sources said that there were two and one vessels berthed respectively in the jetties Sunday and Saturday.
MPA's operation department said that the volume of container handling also plummeted significantly in recent times.
"We have handling capacity of 50,000 Twenty equivalent Units (TEUs) in the port's yards, while we are handling only around 25,000 TEUs", Member (Finance) MPA Lutfor Rahman said Monday.
Meanwhile, the country's main seaport at Chittagong is experiencing an annual 14 per cent growth in containers.
Rahman also admitted that the volume of cargo handling in MPA is also falling each passing day. "We have a capacity of around 6.5 million tonnes, but we are handling cargo of around 1.4 million tonnes per annum", he added.
Port users and experts said that low draught, outdated handling equipment and bad image of the port abroad were the main reasons behind dwindling number of vessels in the port.
Port Chairman Abu Taher said that foreign vessels were reluctant to berth in the port as it had earned a bad reputation of arresting 96 vessels during 1996-01.
He also said that declining trend of jute and jute products export from the port and weak road communication with the capital Dhaka were reasons for current negative growth of the port.
He said that such a negative performance would put into serious question the sustainability of MPA as a seaport.