Building the Sonadia deep sea port23 February 2014
THE construction of a deep sea port is almost overdue in view of the country's steady rise in sea borne external trading including exports and imports and also as pressure is growing to allow Chittagong Port to be used by some other countries in the region. In fact, the government has already decided to establish the deep sea port at Sonadia Island closer to Cox's Bazar; while making it a strategically significant location to the USA and China alongwith India as a regional power. Meanwhile, its importance is only rapidly growing since deep-draft vessels can't enter Chittagong and Mongla ports and we have to use the Singapore deep sea port through feeder line services from Chittagong for our external trade. Hence the decision to set up the deep sea port at Sonadia was taken in 2009 and since then the government is trying to set up an international consortium to build the port avoiding controversies from big players.
China has expressed deep interest from the very beginning to get the contract because it has already set up two similar deep sea ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the recent past. But other contenders are also trying in their own way. Meanwhile, the country's trade circles believe that time is running out fast and the decision on the formation of the consortium must be taken without any waste of time. Trade statistics meanwhile show Chittagong port has an average annual handling capacity of over 45 million tonnes, which is almost 97 percent of the country's sea-borne trade traffic; while it is growing at 9.2 percent per annum. Container traffic is growing at 11.2 percent per annum. Business forecast said if the trend continues, the annual sea-borne trade volume may shoot up to 70 to 80 million tonnes by 2020 making it clear that Chittagong port will not be able to handle it with any amount of expansion of its existing facilities.
Sonadia is a narrow deep water strip in the Bay with a natural depth of 14m in the off-shore of Cox's Bazar in south-east of Bangladesh. This is the deepest point of the Bay which would allow the approach of big ships closer to the land. But as the island is becoming a highly strategic location to some other countries like the USA, China and India, a decision is increasingly becoming difficult. So as news reports said, the government is trying to allay their concerns and pave the way to set up the consortium to build the deep sea port.
Sonadia stands on the vortex of the Bay of Bengal, to dominate the sea access to the entire region including the seven north-eastern states of India, Kunming city in China and the Rakhine states in Myanmar. We hold the view that a deep sea port at Sonadia may be able to provide the port facility to all parties, in addition to catering to the growing needs of the country's external trade. It may be a gateway of trade and prosperity to the entire region and our policies and diplomacy must work to secure the cooperation of all while ensuring the security of the nation.