Connecting South East Asia And The Middle East with Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) And RSGTI Partnership – OpEd


The recent collaboration between the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) of Saudi Arabia represents a pivotal step towards elevating port management capabilities and fostering seamless trade connections. This groundbreaking agreement is set to redefine the operations of the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT), ushering in transformative changes for Bangladesh’s economic landscape and fostering stronger trade ties with the Middle East.

Empowering South East Asia: The Crucial Role of Chittagong Port’s Connectivity and Handling Capacity

Efficient trade operations hinge on seamless port connectivity, and the handling capacity of ports is a key factor in ensuring the smooth flow of goods. The revamped Patenga Container Terminal (PCT), strategically positioned near the estuary and equipped with modern facilities, is poised to set a benchmark for seamless port operations. This is not only essential for meeting the escalating demands of Bangladesh’s import and export activities but also for positioning the country as a pivotal player in the broader global trade network.

The recent collaboration between the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) marks a transformative phase for Chittagong Port. This partnership is geared towards redefining key performance indicators (KPIs), ushering in heightened efficiency, reduced dwell times, and an overall improvement in productivity. In 2022, prior to this collaboration, Chittagong Port handled 11.93 crore tonnes of goods, experiencing a year-on-year growth of 2.28%, with 4,344 ships arriving – a 3.20% increase from 2021. Post-collaboration, the expectation is a substantial enhancement in voyage productivity, streamlining processes at the Patenga Container Terminal to ensure faster loading and unloading, aligning with the preferences of shipping companies. This transformative initiative not only propels the regional stature of Chittagong Port but also positions it as a vital gateway for South East Asia, facilitating smoother trade operations and contributing to the economic growth of the entire region.

Chittagong Port: A Gateway to Prosperity, Connecting Bangladesh with the Middle East and Southeast Asia”

The recent collaboration between the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) not only signifies a leap forward in port management but also heralds a new era of economic growth and connectivity. Positioned as the gateway for 90 percent of Bangladesh’s import and export activities, the agreement holds the promise of transforming the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) into a more efficient and globally competitive facility.

This strategic collaboration is not just confined to Bangladesh; it radiates economic benefits across the region. With the PCT situated at the estuary of the Karnaphuli River, it becomes a key player for neighboring countries like India, Bhutan, and Nepal. This regional accessibility not only fortifies economic ties but also establishes Bangladesh as a vital hub for trade and commerce in South Asia, fostering mutual economic growth. Business leaders anticipate that the Chattogram port will evolve into the business hub of South Asia by attracting more efficient operators and investments into the country.

The deal’s significance extends beyond the South Asian region, as it also facilitates connections with the Middle East. With South Asia expected to achieve a growth rate of 5.8 percent this year, higher than any other developing region, the collaborative efforts between Bangladesh and the Middle East are poised for success. Furthermore, the agreement’s provision for connecting Nepal, Bhutan, and northern eastern India via the Middle East enhances its importance. These nations are already eyeing Chittagong Port as a crucial maritime link for imports and exports. As the port’s capacity expands, it will not only strengthen economic ties in the region but also play a pivotal role in connecting South Asia with the Middle East. Here, the collaborative role of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and Bangladesh emerges as a key connector, marking a significant step in this comprehensive approach to regional economic integration.

Technological Advancements: A Collaborative Leap in Maritime Excellence by KSA and Bangladesh

The collaboration between Bangladesh and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) signals a transformative advancement. This strategic alliance represents a crucial stride to ensure Bangladesh’s sustained success in the fiercely competitive landscape of maritime trade. Red Sea Gateway Terminal International’s (RSGTI) noteworthy expertise, evident from managing Saudi Arabia’s largest terminal facility at Jeddah Port, brings advanced technological know-how to this collaborative venture. The integration of state-of-the-art equipment and efficient cargo handling systems at the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) is anticipated to raise the bar for operational standards. This infusion of modern technology not only propels the PCT into a realm of heightened efficiency but also fosters a technologically advanced and competitive maritime ecosystem.

This collaboration not only signifies a shared vision for maritime excellence but also reflects KSA’s strategic approach towards fostering cooperation in the maritime domain within the region. Together, Bangladesh and KSA are steering towards a future where technological advancements redefine the standards of maritime trade, ensuring a mutually beneficial and forward-looking partnership.

Strategic Significance: Saudi Arabia’s Multi-Sectoral Partnership with Bangladesh and Southeast Asia

Saudi Arabia’s engagement with the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) in Bangladesh goes beyond conventional port management interests. The establishment of a special economic zone, serving as a forward staging area for strategic commodities from Saudi Arabia, marks a pivotal development that deepens the geopolitical and economic bonds between the two nations. This strategic collaboration not only positions Bangladesh as a key partner for Saudi investments but also sets the stage for expansive contributions across diverse sectors such as energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and technology.

The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) plays a crucial role in this strategic partnership, providing substantial financial assistance for infrastructure development in Bangladesh. With a significant loan and grant assistance, the SFD contributes to the economic progress and development of key sectors in Bangladesh.

Beyond the immediate economic benefits, the strategic connection holds broader regional importance. The Chittagong Port and its trade routes, enveloped by the Bay of Bengal, are strategically positioned in proximity to potential energy resources in Bangladesh’s maritime zone and landlocked regions of Southeast Asia. This geographic advantage positions Bangladesh as an energy partner for the Middle East, creating opportunities for collaboration in the extraction and supply of energy resources. For Saudi Arabia, this collaboration transcends mere connectivity with Bangladesh; it becomes a gateway to link the entire region, fostering multi-sectoral cooperation across diverse industries. The strategic engagement serves as a testament to Saudi Arabia’s foresight in leveraging regional partnerships for mutual growth and prosperity.

Saudi Arabia’s Recognition of Bangladesh’s Economic Potential: A Gateway to Expanded Middle East Ties

The recent decision by the Saudi government to appoint Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) as the terminal operator for the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) stands as a clear endorsement of Bangladesh’s ongoing development and economic potential. This recognition not only elevates Bangladesh’s standing on the global stage but also serves as a vote of confidence in the country’s economic trajectory.

As Bangladesh forges ahead in expanding economic ties with the Middle East, the data on exports reflects a significant impact. In 2022, Bangladesh’s exports to the Middle East totaled 173,105.000 BDT mn, marking a notable increase from the previous year’s figure of 294,568.000 BDT mn in 2021. The collaboration with RSGTI is expected to further enhance the prospects of connecting with the Middle East, opening up new avenues for economic cooperation.

In the realm of Ready-Made Garments (RMG), this partnership is poised to boost shipments to the Middle East. The consistent growth in Bangladesh’s apparel shipments to the region over the last three years underscores this potential. From $168 million in 2020 to $246 million in 2021 and reaching $311 million in 2022, the upward trajectory reflects the increasing demand and success of Bangladesh’s RMG sector in the Middle East.

In conclusion, the collaborative efforts between the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and Red Sea Gateway Terminal International (RSGTI) signify a monumental leap forward in port management, heralding a new era of economic growth and connectivity. The strategic partnership not only transforms the Patenga Container Terminal (PCT) into a more efficient and globally competitive facility but also positions Chittagong Port as a vital gateway connecting Bangladesh with the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

S. M. Saifee Islam

S. M. Saifee Islam is a Research Analyst at the Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA), Dhaka, Bangladesh.

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