New Sittwe port proposed to facilitate Myanmar-Bangladesh trade
Photo: The Myanmar Times
To facilitate trade in Rakhine State, U Tin Aung Oo, chair of Rakhine State Federation of Chamber of Commerce and Industries, last week proposed the construction of a new port in Sittwe during a meeting with the vice president.
He said the port, which should be able to handle vessels of up to 20,000 tonnes, could be constructed under a Public Private Partnership (PPP). The proposal was met with approval from the government.
The proposal comes after a surge in the volume of goods handled in Sittwe over the past five years. According to statistics from the Ministry of Transport and Communication, the volume of cargo handled at Sittwe rose to some 350,000 tonnes in 2017-18 from 200,000 tonnes in 2013-14. However, the flow of goods bound for Yangon from Sittwe is just 37,000 tonnes, which is around one tenth of the volume at Sittwe.
The Sittwe port is the main port handling goods traded between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Over the past five years, goods exported to Bangladesh have doubled to 20,000 tonnes. Port capacity at Sittwe however, has not increased to handle the higher volumes.
There are currently just two ports in Sittwe: state-owned Hpaungdawgyi Port and Shwemingan Port, which was built by the Asia Development Bank. Both ports have the capacity to handle a single 1000-tonne ship each. Meanwhile, existing infrastructure at the ports require a period of 10 days to load each vessel.
Currently, the Sittwe ports handle around 15 ships per month. “As the current port capacity is so limited, cargo is also being unloaded onto barges in the sea. However, this is a slow process which delays the flow of cargo and raises costs,” said U Tin Aung Oo.
In addition, the ports are unable to handle the weight of large trucks, so smaller vehicles are used to transport the goods received, which drives costs up even further.
“If we can build a third and larger port able to handle ships of up to 20,000 tonnes, we would save on time and costs,” he added.
U Tin Aung Oo’s proposal received a positive response. “A new port which can handle bigger vessels will solve the current bottleneck in Rakhine. We are ready to help in terms of offering technology and other necessary resources,” said U Thant Sin Maung, Minister of Transport and Communication.
He warned though that the port should be constructed in the right location so as not to interfere with the ongoing development of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which is expected to connect the eastern Indian seaport of Kolkata with Sittwe . In Myanmar, it will then link Sittwe seaport to Paletwa in Chin State via the Kaladan river.
“The Kaladan project involves huge investments so we must be careful to choose the right location for the new port so as not to compete with the Kaladan ports,” U Thant Sin Maung said.
So far, the Myanmar Port Authority has provided three locations by the Kaladan river where feasibility studies for the construction of a new port of the suggested 20,000 tonne capacity can be conducted.