History of Chittagong Port in Bangladesh

History of Chittagong Port in Bangladesh

 April 11, 2022, 11:04 p.m.

Chittagong Port is one of the world's oldest and busiest ports in Bangladesh. The Chittagong Port, on the banks of the Karnaphuli River, is Bangladesh's key seaport and the main port that the nations rely on. The port accommodates a wide range of cargo and handles 90% of Bangladesh's export imports. Continue reading to learn more about the history of Chittagong Port.

When did it come to light?

Arab traders were the first to discover the port in the 9th century, and they recognized it to be a vital center for commerce and business due to the port's location and natural harbor. Xuanzang and Ma Huan, two notable Chinese explorers, mentioned the port in their travel books. 

In the 14th century, the port was visited by Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta and Niccolo De Conti. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in Chittagong, and they attempted to take control of the city twice. The first time was under John De Silviera in 1517, and the second time was under Alfonso-De-Milo in 1527.

The attempt to take control of the port

The Portuguese eventually got the port and it evolved into a commercial center, acquiring the title "Porto Grande". The port and the land from the south of the Feni river to the south of the Shankha river were seized by Shaista Khan, the Mughal General of Bengal, in 1665-1666. For another hundred years, Chittagong remained in the hands of Mughal Emperors. 

The East India Company had just constructed their first factory at the time, and they were not happy with being simple traders. They subsequently sought to obtain a better base at Chittagong, and during the Anglo-Mughal War, which lasted from 1686 to 1690, an expedition was dispatched to seize Chittagong, but they were unsuccessful.

Chittagong was ceded to the British by Nawab Mir Qasim in 1760. Calcutta thus progressively emerged as Bengal's primary port throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. There were no substantial port facilities in Chittagong when the Chittagong Port Trust was created in 1888, signifying a shift in significance and government priority.

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History of Chittagong Port In Bangladesh

The first attempt to build an administrative and policy-making structure for the Chittagong port was undertaken in 1887 when the Chittagong Port Commissioner's legislation established a Port trust. 

The Chittagong Port Commissioners Act of 1887 created a nine-member panel, with six members appointed by the local administration and three by a nominated electorate composed of local firms suggested by the Bangladesh government. 

The board's membership altered dramatically throughout time as new members were added to the group of nominated members, but European influence remained undiminished. 

There were administrative issues due to the separation of jurisdiction between the Port Trust, which was in charge of river conservation and shipping traffic, and the railway company, which was in control of ocean-going vessel piers and beach facilities.

Due to the fact that there were so many members on the Port Trust board who couldn't devote much time or attention to it hampered the management even further. 

The Chairman of the Port Commissioners was the Divisional Commissioner of Chittagong, who was in charge of the Port Trust, and his varied duties demanded that the day-to-day operation of the port be delegated to someone else.

Before the creation of the Port Trust in 1888, the administrative work of the Chittagong port was handled by an official who was both a Customs Collector and a Port Officer. 

The Port Trust was founded as a semi-governing organization by the Chittagong Port Act of 1914, as revised by legislation passed in 1960, to eliminate the dual jurisdiction of the Port Railway and Port Commissioners.

The port's trade increased dramatically when Bangladesh was formed in 1971. To deal with the Port's fast development and expansion, the Port Trust was disbanded in 1986. Following that, the Chittagong Authority took over the management of the port, which is now under the Ministry of Shipping's supervision. 

East of the Meghna River were the districts of Chittagong, Noakhali, Tippera, Sylhet, Cachar, Hill Tippera, and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Despite the high population, there was not a single mile of the railway in the region. 

For many years, the Chittagong division's only railway was a hand-operated tramway that ran for a mile and a half through Barkal.

The majority were searching for a better port than the current port facilities could provide. Merchants addressed the Government, asking them to study the river Meghna and declare it navigable so that sea-borne vessels from Indian and foreign ports could enter Narayanganj to trade in the items farmed in the eastern areas.

The Bengal government judged the river Meghna's navigation to be far too challenging for ships. In 1881, the topic of using the port of Chittagong was brought up again, prompting the additional inquiry. A railway from Chittagong to Daudkandi was seriously considered at the time. At around the same time, the Indian government was discussing the necessity for a railway system.

The discussion led to the establishment of the Assam Bengal Railway. In 1887, the Chittagong Port Commissioners Act gave the commissioners the authority to purchase property for the construction of quay and piers. 

The Port Commissioners did not realize they didn't have any coastal property on which to build sea-going piers until the Assam Bengal Railway Company arrived almost four years later.

The Indian government said that the Port Trust should possess the whole shoreline, wharves, and jetties in Chittagong, as well as regulate storage, landing, and shipping of commodities, and offer sufficient adequate facilities to the railway company. 

With the division of Bengal in 1905, the port entered its most important time during the Colonial Rule.

Before the division, Lord Curzon, the then Governor, pledged financial assistance to the Port Commissioners to gain support for the separation. The Imperial budget supported Curzon's commitments for port infrastructure building. 

The New East Bengal Government and Assam placed a high value on the port's expansion, matching their excitement and anticipation with a large amount of money from their resources.

The port of Chittagong rose to prominence in 1971. Since then, some projects have been finished, while others are still in the works, and more development initiatives are planned. Despite resource and manpower constraints, the Port Authority has concentrated all of its efforts on the Port's expansion and improved management to make it the primary focus for economic growth.

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