Geopolitics hampers deep seaport development in Bangladesh

Geopolitics hampers deep seaport development in Bangladesh

SAM Staff,
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The competition among three major powers for building a deep-sea port in Bangladesh has intensified following the recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Bangladesh. In an article published the US-based biweekly magazine joc.com observed that China, Japan, and India has been fighting for the right to provide financing, and with that a permit to build their influence in the country and in the region.

“During the presidential visit, China committed $24 billion for the development of infrastructure projects, but no details were provided on investment in port infrastructure despite years of attempts on the part of Beijing to finance the construction of a new deep-sea port in the country” wrote Turloch Mooney, senior editor of the Global Ports in the article.

But, the magazine that focuses on trade topics pointed out that no details were provided on investment in port infrastructure despite years of attempts on the part of Beijing to finance the construction of a new deep-sea port in the country.

After 10 years of average annual GDP growth of 6 per cent, Bangladesh desperately needs modern port infrastructure. More than 90 per cent of its foreign trade and almost all of its containers are currently handled by Chittagong port.

Essentially a river port, located 16 kilometers up the Karnaphuli river from the Bay of Bengal, Chittagong has a draft of only 9.2 meters (30 feet), requiring the costly practice of transferring cargo from large to small vessels before berthing and discharge.

The article said more than half of the cargo berths at the port’s three main terminals, some of which date back to the 1940s, are in poor condition, and the port is regularly congested. Beijing was originally due to build a new deep sea port at Sonadia in the south of Bangladesh.

The game of geopolitics among big powers for getting a firm foothold in Bangladesh as well as in the region through establishing maritime supremacy has been running for quite a long time. It will be intensified in coming days, no doubt.

The construction of the deep seaport in Bangladesh, “which was being financed on a public-private partnership (PPP) platform, was originally granted to a Chinese company, and it was starting to look like China was finally going to get its deep sea port in Bangladesh. Then the usual chorus of India, Japan, and the United States resounded once again”, wrote Wade Shepard, journalist and author of Ghost Cities of China, in an article on the Diplomat on 7 June.

However, US-based biweekly observed that the Chinese project was scrapped following what is thought to have been intense political pressure from India and the United States, both of whom are concerned over China’s growing influence in the Indian ocean region.

Japan has been making better headway recently. Earlier this year, the article pointed out, a signing ceremony took place for a multi-billion dollar port and power plant project in Matarbari in the south of Bangladesh.

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