CHITTAGONG, the main port of Bangladesh, has taken up a $12m project to set up container scanners aimed at detecting shipments of deadly cargoes.
'An international tender will be floated soon, so that the project is completed by next December, and the port will be ranked as one of the safest and most modern in the world,' said AMM Shahadat Hossain, chairman of Chittagong Port Authority.
'The project will be financed from the port's own funds. All outbound and homebound containers will be scanned before loading and after unloading at the port.'
The project, taken up at the advice of the US Trade and Development Agency early last year, has been ramped up following a wave of bomb blasts, including suicide bombings, that have killed at least 30 people and wounded 150 in the country since August 17 last year.
USTDA advised Chittagong Port Authority to take up the project after it did a security assessment of the port, which sends thousands of containers to the US every year. Following the September 11 attacks, the agency had carried out security assessments at various world ports which have trade links with the US.
The need for container scanners was strongly felt by the authorities in Bangladesh after huge explosives and other incendiary items were seized from a number of hideouts in the country in recent months.
In April last year, police seized 10 truckloads of sophisticated weapons from fishing boats near Chittagong port.
Cargo handling at Chittagong port, which handles 80% of Bangladesh's external trade, rose 14% to 24.39m tonnes in fiscal 2004-05 (July to June) from the previous financial year.
The port handled 746,008 teu of containers in 2004-05 against 654,116 teu the previous year.
One-third of the containers handled were export cargoes, with about a third of them destined for the US.
(Lloyds List -- 01/20/06)
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