Matarbari Deep Sea Port Becoming a Regional Hub: A Game Changer in the Region?

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Global demand for shipping via seaways has lately increased. This scenario is also reflected in the Chittagong Port, where the volume of container handling has increased rapidly due to an increase in seaborne imports and exports. Considering this circumstance, the government decided to build Matarbari Deep Sea Port to relieve some of the strain on Chittagong Port and expand its capacity. The project’s goal is to create a dependable and low-cost logistic network for seaborne cargo/freight handling and transport facilities in order to keep Bangladeshi exports competitive in the global market. To attain these goals, a new commercial port and a port connecting road with the national highway (N1) would be built in the Chittagong Division’s Matarbari, Moheshkhali, and Chakoria areas, adding to the development of facilities with adjacent nations. The Government of Bangladesh got a loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the sum of 2,655,000,000 yen for the implementation of the Matarbari Port Development Project. Work on the ideal deep-sea port project is well underway. With the epidemic practically over, the task continues unabated. The project is expected to be finished by 2026. It will act as a catalyst, establishing itself as the region’s most significant feeder port for mother boats from other countries ports.

Throughout the tenure of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Japan’s late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the long and trusted friendship between Japan and Bangladesh gained pace. At this time, Bangladesh has focused on high-quality infrastructure in collaboration with a Japanese technical and financial firm. These infrastructures will help Bangladesh become a middle-income country, and then a developed one, by 2041. Given this context, the Matarbari Port Development Project was undertaken to assure long-term growth and to construct strong marine logistics to support Bangladesh’s rising export commerce and to emerge as a regional center of connectivity.

Matarbari Deep Sea Port: Dream of BIG-B

In 2021-2022, Chittagong port handled approximately 32.55 lakh TEUs of cargo. Experts predict that if the current pace of container handling expansion continues, the country’s annual container handling volume would more than likely surpass 140 lakh TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) by 2041. These many containers and ships will overwhelm the nation’s current seaports. The Matarbari Port Development Project is an important Government of Bangladesh Fast Track Project. This project is a result of the idea of “BIG – B” (The Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt), which was jointly launched in September 2014 by the premiers of Bangladesh and Japan. The requirement at the time was to construct a deep-sea port to increase the capacity of the Chittagong port. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced Matarbari be a role model for the blue economy, and the deep seaport is being built in accordance with the model. With the completion of the deep seaport, a new economic belt will be constructed stretching from Dhaka to Cox’s Bazar. In the future, the largest mother boats will be able to dock at the seaport’s terminals. As a result, it will become the most significant regional export and import center for neighboring nations. Matarbari deep seaport terminals have the greatest draft of any port in the neighboring nation. As a result, CPA’s deep-sea port will serve as the region’s feeder port.

The seaport will help trade through the Chittagong port

The project’s goal is to create a dependable and low-cost logistic network for seaborne cargo/freight handling and transport facilities in order to keep Bangladeshi exports competitive in the global market. The government is also building a coal-fired power plant, an LNG terminal, and motorways. Analysts predict that Matarbari will become the most significant export-import center in the South Asian area in the future since the region is booming with megaprojects such as Deep-Sea Port. Just four years ago, enormous areas of Matarbari in Cox’s Bazar’s Moheshkhali were utilized for salt farming. Huge turbines and chimneys have now altered the appearance of a rural location on Bangladesh’s southeast coast.

Bangladesh’s maritime connection would improve dramatically, as the deep-sea port would more than double the Chittagong Port’s total capacity for handling goods and containers. The major goal of the project is to increase Bangladesh’s cargo handling capacity by building the Matarbari Port, which will meet the demand for international commerce while also facilitating quick port services with neighboring nations. The CPA’s deep seaport at Matarbari, Cox’s Bazar, will become the region’s most significant export-import center in the future. By operating mother vessels for other countries’ ports, it will establish itself as the region’s most significant feeder port. Ships with a capacity of 80,000 tonnes will be able to pass through the waterway. It will resemble Japan’s Kashima Port. This seaport is expected to handle 11 lakh TEU containers by the time the project is completed in 2026, and 42 lakhs by 2041.

Chittagong and Mongla do not have deep-sea ports. As a result, deep draft ships are unable to dock at some port jetties.  Hence, the “Matarbari Port Development” project has been prioritized in order to ensure jetty facilities for deep draft boats. It will speed Bangladesh’s development toward becoming a prosperous and wealthy nation.

– Saume Saptaparna Nath is a Research Associate at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA). Previously, she worked as an Intern at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bangladesh.

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