The rise of Bangladesh's clinker imports

The rise of Bangladesh's clinker imports
21 December 2022

Bangladesh’s cement industry is expanding with clinker imports rising for the last five fiscal years. According to the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), the main seaport of Bangladesh, the authority handled 35.130Mt of clinker imports in the financial year 2021-22 (July–June), compared to 33.297Mt in the year-ago period, marking growth of 5.52 per cent. This compares to 21.49Mt in 2017-18, 24.82Mt in 2018-19, and 24.04Mt in 2019-20.

Similarly, data from the Bangladesh Central Bank reports that clinker imports came in at US$1.048bn in the 2021 financial year, versus US$878m in the same period a year earlier, representing a YoY advance of 19.3 per cent.

Bangladesh currently imports cement raw materials, such as clinker, granulated slag, limestone flux, gypsum and fly ash from Thailand, Vietnam, China and Pakistan.

Calls for dedicated bulk handling jetties
In light of rising imports, shippers are calling for dedicated arrangements for better bulk cargo handling at Chittagong Port, rather than outer anchorage through lighter vessels. Local media pointed out that no new bulk jetties have been built at the port for unloading goods from bulk carriers since independence, despite 45 per cent of incoming vessels being bulkers, and growth of nine per cent in bulk cargo handling in recent years. 

Businesses claim that the CPA is obsessed with capacity expansion for container handling, instead of expansion of bulker handling capacity. As a result, bulk carriers with imported food grains, steel, and cement raw materials have to moor at the Chittagong port outer anchorage first, transfer a chunk of the goods to smaller vessels, and then queue up for the main port anchorage with a reduced draught. Thus, importers face cargo damage, more than a 10-day wait for main port anchorage, and daily demurrage for the delay.       

CPA currently has three terminals – General Cargo Berth, Chittagong Container Terminal and New Mooring Container Terminal. The terminals have a total of 20 jetties. Six out of 19 jetties in port operations now handle bulk carriers, while 13 are for container ships. According to the port data, about 45 per cent of the ships bringing goods from different countries are container ships, 45 per cent are bulk carriers, and 10 per cent are tankers.

Chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents' Association, Syed Mohammad Arif, said the capacity of the jetties at the General Cargo Berth is low as the berth is old. He called for construction of new jetties, engaging the private sector if required. However, Secretary of the Chattogram Port Authority, Mohammad Omar Faruk, said that 75 per cent of the bulk cargoes arriving at Chattogram port are unloaded by smaller vessels at the outer anchorage and can accommodate more bulkers once the Bay Terminal and Patenga Container Terminal are opened.  

Published under Cement News