孟加拉:中国投资4亿美元项目停滞

China’s Mongla seaport dev project stalls

DPP at standstill for 10 months for ‘re-evaluation’


 SYFUL ISLAM |  July 07, 2024 00:00:00


 

Months have elapsed since a multimillion-dollar Chinese investment project for upgrading Mongla seaport got approval from Bangladesh’s highest economic body but it couldn’t make any headway for ‘re-evaluation’ dilemmas, sources said.

Under the ‘Expansion and Development of Mongla Port Facilities’ project China has agreed to invest US$400 million to build two container jetties to enhance handling capacity of the country’s second seaport.

Two cardinal necessities can be served with this project: to augment dollar-denominated foreign direct investment at a time when Bangladesh experiences foreign-exchange dearth and elevate the seaport to a regional shipping hub.

Neighbouring India has, meanwhile, been engaged in doing a study for building two jetties at the seaport where they already secured transshipment facilities to transport cargoes to and from its landlocked northeastern states.

And in a recent move, India expressed interest in operating the Mongla port by fielding a delegation of India Ports Global Limited (IPGL), an entity under its Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.

The Development Project Proposal (DPP) on the Chinese project was placed at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on September 12, 2023. After the meeting, the then junior planning minister, Shamsul Alam, briefed newsmen that the port-development project got approval from the ECNEC along with 18 other proposals.

However, the minutes of the ECNEC meeting did not carry anything about the Mongla Port project. Rather, officials said, over four months after the meeting, the Ministry of Shipping received a letter from the Physical Infrastructure Division of the Planning Commission on December 14 that asked for forming a committee and resubmit the project after re-evaluation.

The project implementation was supposed to begin on July 1, but to avail so far. It failed to get going since it was not submitted again before the ECNEC for the all-clear.

Sources said the ministry of shipping itself did not form a committee rather a committee headed by the chairman of the Mongla Port Authority was constituted to re-evaluate the DPP.

Contacted Wednesday, Mongla Port Authority chairman Rear Admiral Shaheen Rahman told the FE the committee had re-evaluated the DPP and sent to the ministry for next course of action.

“Now it is waiting to be placed before the ECNEC meet,” he said, however.

Once the approval is given, a deal between the two governments will be signed to implement the project, he says to explain the time lag.

According to officials concerned, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) is the officially designated contractor of China to implement the project. The Mongla Port Authority signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the CCECC authority on August 24, 2021 and the latter submitted its financial bid and technical proposal on January 28, 2023.

The CCECC’s project director for Mongla port venture, Abu Sufian, finds “unknown reasons” behind the delay in re-submitting the DPP to the ECNEC.

“It seems this project has been put on hold for unknown reasons,” he told the FE when contacted to know the why of the apparent stalemate.

“The CCECC sincerely hopes that the Government of Bangladesh may complete its internal approval process as soon as possible as the project cost may increase day by day,” says the PD.

Replying to a query, Mr Sufian said geopolitical issues may be there behind the delay in processing the project. Shipping secretary Mostafa Kamal, however, does not see any Indo-China tussle behind the dithering over the project.

“The DPP was sent to the ECNEC for approval. But it returned with some observations for reconstruction. The file is under process,” he told the FE correspondent

‘Expansion and Modernisation of Mongla Port Facilities’ was listed among the 27 development projects that China pledged to fund by signing an umbrella deal back in 2016 during president Xi Jinping’s visit to Dhaka.

The project aims construction of two container jetties with a length of 368 meters each, 87,600 square-meter loaded container yard, 34,170 square-meter empty-container yard, and 4,260 square-meter hazardous cargo-handling yard.

Moreover, four gantry cranes, seven rubber- tyred gantry cranes, and 33 other jetty -related equipment will be bought under the project.

The two new jetties will enhance Mongla port’s container-handling capacity by 394,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) per annum.

Munshi Foyez Ahmed, a former Bangladesh ambassador to China, says Dhaka should not hold back any project due to “interference” by others.

“If we make commitment to anyone, we should go forward with them,” he opines. Otherwise, it would not make any good example.

Mr Ahmed adds: “We can only stop a project if we find the proposal not beneficial for us.”

syful-islam@outlook.com

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