Businesses and tax officials have urged the government to take immediate steps to make the Mongla port vibrant and attractive to traders and utilise the potentials of the port.
At two separate meetings — one held at Mongla in Bagerhat and another in Bagerhat, they also said that continued dredging to ensure navigability of the Pasur River and reduction of cost of doing business were required for making the port vibrant.
National Board of Revenue, Mongla Customs House and Mongla Port Authority jointly organised the meetings on Wednesday and Thursday.
At a views-exchange meeting with the Economic Reporters Forum held at the MPA auditorium on Thursday, Mongla Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association president Sultan Hossain Khan said that bigger vessels could not enter the port due to lack of dredging of the Posur River.
He also blamed that entrepreneurs of Khulna region did not import capital machinery through the port; rather they used the Chittagong port for the purpose, due to harassment by customs officials.
He requested the NBR to ease capital machinery import through the port.
NBR member (customs policy) Farid Uddin said there is no alternative but to develop and improve capacity of the port as there is no space for expansion of the Chittagong port while the government has no intention to expand the Benapole land port.
The importance of Mongla port will increase after implementation of Padma Bridge, Rampal Power Plant and other development projects, he said.
He also suggested that the government should import goods and project-related items through the Mongla port to keep the port alive.
He said that there might be a provision for importing vehicles only through the Mongla port.
Continued dredging, capacity improvement and reduction of cost of doing business are required, he said.
According to the MCH data, the number of container ships and number of containers declined by 29 per cent and 35 per cent respectively in the July-February period of the current fiscal year 2016-2017 compared with those in the same period of last fiscal year.
Import of high-duty goods also dropped by 83 per cent cent, the data showed.
The reasons for the fall in trade activities through the port are lack of navigability and additional freight fare needed due to long distance of the port from the Bay of Bengal.
MPA chairman Commodore AKM Faruque Hasan said the capacity of Mongla port should be increased by at least five times once the ongoing development projects are completed.
Currently, only 50-60 per cent of the capacity can be used due to lack of ships and containers, he said.
Low depth is a major factor for the decline in number of containers, he said.
Ships with 10-metre draft will be able to enter the port if the 132-kilometre Pasur River is dredged at some points, he said.
He claimed that sometimes ships with 7-metre to 8-metre draft could come to the port.
He requested the NBR for a quick disposal of 800 containers which have remained stuck at the port.
NBR chairman Md Nojibur Rahman at the meeting instructed the customs house and port authorities to take coordinated efforts to resolve the problems that fall under their jurisdictions.
The NBR will sit with other ministries concerned to make the port attractive to users, he said.
He also instructed the customs authorities to quickly dispose of motor vehicles and containers remained stuck at the port.
MCH commissioner Al Amin Pramanik, Khulna income tax commissioner Iqbal Hossain and VAT commissioner KM Ohidul Alam made presentations on their respective activities.
Earlier on Wednesday, at a budget meeting held at Zilla Parishad Auditorium in Bagerhat, member of parliament Mir Shawkat Ali Badsha said that the Mongla port should be made vibrant.
The authorities including the NBR should take steps in this connection, he said.
Leaders of the Bagerhat Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded dredging of the Pasur River so that bigger ships can enter the port all the year round.
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