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CPA-WB row may delay Bay terminal

Published : 08 Nov 2021 10:21 PM | Updated : 10 Nov 2021 10:09 AM

Uncertainty looms over the timely start of physical construction and completion of the long-awaited Bay Terminal megaproject on the Halishahar coast of the Bay of Bengal in Chattogram as some contentions between the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and the World Bank (WB) are yet to be resolved.

According to a shipping ministry document obtained by the Bangladesh Post, the feasibility study of Sellhorn-HPC, World Bank’s expression of interest to engage in breakwater and dredging works and some recent proposals of the CPA created the differences, which may delay the implementation of the project, a top priority project of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Secretary to the Ministry of Shipping Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, however, denied any difference between the CPA and WB but he said two organisations have just given different proposals.

Read more: PM’s principal secretary visits Bay Terminal project

A supervisory meeting to review the progress of the Bay Terminal project was held at the shipping ministry on September 1 this year with State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury presiding over it.

According to the resolution of the meeting, there are still some differences between the Sellhorn-HPC’s feasibility study and the proposal of the CPA.

In Sellhorn-HPC’s study, container terminal-1 will be 1,225 metres, container terminal-2 will be 830 metres and multi-purpose terminal will be 1,500 metres.

However, according to the proposal of the CPA, container terminal-1 should be 2,000 metres, container terminal-2 2,000 metres and multi-purpose terminal 2,000 metres in the Bay Terminal project.

Differences also cropped up on the component of the breakwater. Sellhorn-HPC in its feasibility study recommended 5-kilometre breakwater while the CPA proposed filling natural Chars and social forestation instead of breakwater.

Regarding capital and maintenance dredging, Sellhorn-HPC voices for 18.3 million cubic metre capital dredging and 0.50 cubic million metre maintenance dredging.

But the CPA wants a 12-metre draft, the ministry’s documents said.

According to the written opinion of the Joint Secretary (Development and PPP Cell) of the shipping ministry, the WB had proposed conducting a complete feasibility study of the project and updating the master plan regarding the Bay Terminal project.

The WB also proposed to divide the project into four phases --  phase -1 for navigational simulation, reviewing and updating the report of 2017, and formulating master plan; phase-2 for breakwater design, dredging volume calculation, recommended method of construction of breakwater, PPP modality of terminal construction; phase-3 for the tender process; and phase-4 for supervision.

The WB proposed Sellhorn-HPC JV, a joint venture comprising two German firms – Sellhorn Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH and HPC Hamburg Port Consulting GmbH, for all the phases.    

But the CPA differs from the WB proposal. The CPA authorities said as per previous data, the channel is very old. So, there is no need for navigational simulation.

The CPA also opined that breakwater design, dredging volume calculation and modality should not be given to the Sellhorn-HPC as it conducted the previous feasibility study of the Bay Terminal project.

Read more: HSIA 3rd terminal to be most sophisticated in S Asia

If Sellhorn-HPC is assigned the job, it will be in violation of the sub-clause 55(4) of the PPR-2008 and conflict of interest will arise.

The CPA said the work can be financed by the International Development Association (IDA).

According to the Environmental Framework of the WB, a totally new Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) has to be conducted. But the CPA claimed that in 2016, the ToR of ESIA for the Bay Terminal project was approved by the Directorate of Environment. As per the approval, the consultancy organization appointed by the CPA completed the EIA and social report of the project.

The WB raised the issues of potential habitat of 45 endangered species and 21 critically endangered species. The CPA said the issue was not mentioned in the ESIA report of the consultant firm.

The WB recommended appointing a consultancy organisation as per ToR of ESIA, to be financed by the CPA. The CPA disagreed saying that the implementation of the project will be further delayed due to the restart of the previously completed task.

The WB also recommended appointing a local consultancy organisation to which the CPA disagreed.

The CPA in its special board meeting held on August 3 this year said the WB must accept the feasibility study and ESIA which were conducted by the CPA.

If the WB does not agree, the CPA suggested the government find another option of financing including taking credit from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of the South Korean government.

If the process of getting credit is delayed, the CPA can also implement the project with its own finance, the meeting of the CPA board decided.

Talking to Bangladesh Post on October 31, Commander Arifur Rahman, Chief Hydrographer of the CPA said, “The main aim of the breakwater or protection dyke is to protect the Bay terminal. We have never said that no breakwater is needed. We just said that there is a natural island in the area. We suggested naturally strengthening the natural island.”

 “The way the Sundarbans protects the South region of the country, if we can make the island strong, it will also protect the Bay terminal,” he opined.

He also said the German consultant has concluded that the natural Island is stable. The natural Island has remained for 35 years and gradually getting bigger day by day.

It is a growing island, he said, adding that the breakwater is a must. “But we want to convert the island into breakwater for two reasons.  One is to keep the natural island intact and to save the coast. Or the coast will decrease drastically.”

About the timeframe of the Bay Terminal project, Mohd Omar Faruk, Secretary of the CPA said, “We’re hopeful of completing the project within the timeline of 2024. But every project is not completed within the timeline. Timeframes of many projects in the world are extended for completing them.”

About the capability of implementing the Bay Terminal project with Bangladesh's own finance, he said, “The finance of the CPA means finance of the government. The government will oversee the issue. Finally, the government will decide whether the project will be implemented by the government project or WB finance.”

Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, Chairman of the CPA said, “It is very early to comment whether the project could be completed within the timeline. We’re still discussing it. We shall work as per instruction of the government.”

Replying to another question, he said the time-bound action plan has already been sent to the ministry.

Earlier on September 1, the Shipping Ministry ordered the CPA to send the Time-bound Action Plan and form a monitoring committee by 15 days to give a progress report to the ministry every month.

About the existing differences between the WB and CPA, Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury, Secretary at the Ministry of Shipping said, “There are actually no differences.”

“The WB has given its proposal and the CPA also has given its proposal. Without study it is not possible to say whether we need to construct a breakwater like the Matarbari project, or can use the natural breakwater, he added.

On some points, the WB spoke for further feasibility study while the CPA said there is already a study.  

About the timely start and completion of the Bay terminal project, Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury said, “The CPA is not alone here. We’re also working. It also depends on the performance of the Public-Private Partnership Authority.”

Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, the State Minister for Shipping, could not be reached despite several attempts by this correspondent.