The government is mulling over abandoning a plan to develop deep sea port in Sonadia island in Cox’s Bazar and instead the proposed Matarbari sea port in the district would be extended up to Sonadia.
“The proposed deep sea port in Matarbari is only 25 kilometres away from Sonadia. This small distance between the two tiny islands makes the government to rethink over Sonadia deep sea port project,” said Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal.
Another decision has also been taken to include Patuakhali district’s Paira deep sea port on the list of six fast-track projects to develop landscape of the country’s south-west region, he said quoting from a recent fast-track monitoring committee meeting chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Considering the new development, he said the construction plan of Sonadia deep sea port needs further study while Matarbari deep sea port, initially meant for shipping coal to feed coal-based power plant in the area, will be extended up to Sonadia.
Planning minister disclosed the development of deep sea port project in response to questions from reporters at the NEC conference room on Thursday.
Sonadia deep sea port is seen as a potential deep water port that could serve the landlocked parts of India, Myanmar and China.
Besides, the island is a coveted naval strategic point for global and regional economic powers.
The sea port is first of its kind planned by the Bangladesh authorities as the existing sea port facility is not capable of dealing with the increasing number of export-import containers carrying goods of $55bn annually.
A feasibility study of Sonadia sea port was completed in 2009 but the fund constraints coupled with dilemma over picking a financier on political ground delayed the project, officials said.
Construction of the Sonadia sea port faces uncertainty as the world’s top economic powers do not feel comfortable about China’s involvement with the project, they said.
“Some countries, including India and the United States, are against the Chinese involvement,” Mostafa Kamal said, adding the government, however, does not want to displease any of these influential countries.
In June last year, the government backtracked from signing a scheduled Memorandum of Understanding with China for the construction of the deep sea port.
Meanwhile, the Netherlands, China and the United Arab Emirates have made their presentations at the Prime Minister’s Office on construction of Sonadia deep sea port, said Planning minister.
“But we are yet to finalise things about constructing Sonadia deep sea port. It is still under scrutiny.”
Prime Minister, at the Wednesday’s first-track project monitoring committee meeting, asked shipping ministry to assess feasibility of proposed Matarbari sea port in the district’s Maheshkhai island, according to sources concerned.
In August last year, the government approved a Tk360 crore project to set up a deep sea port for handling imported coal for the proposed 1,200 megawatt Matarbari power plant.
“Under the project, the government will set up a deep sea port at Matarbari where 80,000 deadweight tonnes of ships will be able to anchor and this port’s activities will be extended to Sonadia. So, this is a better site for the deep sea port,” the minister said.
About the plan to change Patuakhali’s Paira sea port to a deep sea port, he said a decision has been made in this regard to make the change.
“This project will be included on the list of fast track projects to bring economic dynamism in the country’s south-west regions,” Mostafa Kamal said.
Earlier, the government decided to build the country’s third sea port in Patuakhali’s Paira river under public-private partnership initiative.
It is expected to benefit fisheries, agriculture and manufacturing industries of the region and of the neighbouring countries like Nepal and Bhutan.