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DEEP SEA PORT AT SONADIA

Govt prefers consortium for maximum benefits

Shakhawat Hossain

The government is desperately looking for an international consortium instead of a single country to award the construction works of the proposed deep-sea port at Sonadia island in Cox’s Bazar.
Shipping ministry officials said the government had taken the decision so that the country should not rely only on a single country, especially China, a strong contender to win the deal, for building the deep sea port in the Bay of Bengal.
The deep sea port has been identified as one of the six fast-track projects. But resource constraint has held back the construction of the port despite a feasibility study was completed in 2009.
Experts said the country needs a deep sea port as the existing sea port in Chittagong is not capable of handling bigger vessels against the backdrop of growing incoming and outgoing containers worth more than US$ 55 billion annually.   
They said the Bay already emerged as a crucial geo-political location between China and India.
China invested US$ 500 million to open the Colombo International Container Terminal in Sri Lanka in August 2013 and helped building a new US$ 450 million deep-sea port at the southern Lankan city of Hambantota in 2012.
Also in the last year, China took control of Pakistan’s Gwadar Port. The Chinese progress on the world’s busiest international shipping lane has worried India.
Immediate past principle secretary Sheikh Wahiduzzaman told New Age on Thursday that India was keen to use the proposed deep the sea port,
but three Chinese companies showed willingness to fund the project cost too.
Wahiduzzaman, who was chief of a government committee on the deep sea port, admitted that the government preferred consortium for the country’s geo-political location and maximising benefit from the port.
The government wanted to make the country a regional hub through the establishment of the port and cater to the need of neighbouring countries.
‘A consortium-based financing is more feasible to achieve the target,’ he said.
The committee noted in its recommendations that the construction work of the deep sea port should not be given to any single country, he said.
The shipping ministry officials said three Chinese companies-- Merchants Holdings International Company Ltd, China CAMC Engineering Co Ltd, and China Harbour Engineering Ltd-- have shown their interest.
The committee already reviewed proposal by the CMHI which has been nominated by the Chinese government for the particular project.
The Rotterdam Port Authority of the Netherlands held presentation before the committee on the port last year.  
Maersk Line, one of the top shipping lines, has proposed to take part in the construction works on behalf of Denmark. DP World, a United Arab Emirates-based company, was also vying for the deal.
The committee is expected to meet with the visiting DP World officials soon.
Chairman of Economics Department, Dhaka University, Prof MA Taslim, said since Bangladesh has limited resources it needs to focus on specific countries including China.  
He said demand of the Bangladeshi products should be raised globally through productive investment on big infrastructures like sea port.  There is a big opportunity for the country to reap benefit by involving China in our economy, he said.
Centre for policy dialogue executive director Mustafizur Rahman said China had long been trying to connect its upcoming provinces with the closest sea routes.
Sea ports in Chittagong could serve as a better option for them, he said, adding that there was no problem to build the proposed port with Chinese help or others. He suggested that the government should not delay further to find a suitable funding source.




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