The government’s negotiations for borrowing Tk 8,643 crore from Belgian Export Credit Agency for dredging Payra Port’s main channel Rabnabad is at the final stage.

The Belgian Export Credit Agency would provide the credit through HSBC.

The loan, carrying 1.52 per cent annual interest has to be repaid in half-yearly instalments in 10 years, Payra Port Authority member for Harbour and Marine activities Commodore Md Saidur Rahman told New Age on August 10.

The repayment would start within six months of completion of dredging by Payra Dredging Company Limited, a subsidiary of Jan De Nul Group of Belgium, he said.

The dredging would take 40 months for completions.

Saidur Rahman said that they had submitted terms and conditions of the loan deal to the ministry of finance for vetting.

He said they expected positive response from the ministry of finance as the terms and conditions of the loan were easier compared to hard-term loans taken from different foreign sources including China and India.          

He said they expected to start the dredging of the channel in the 4th quarter of the current year.

In January, the Payra Port Authority signed a deal with the Belgian company to start the capital dredging as well as maintenance of the Rabnabad channel for 10 years.

In August 2016, prime minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Payra Port.

The government wants to turn Payra into a deep sea port on priority.

Many experts, however, expressed doubts about the viability a 3rd sea port at Payra in Patuakhali with such high dredging and maintenance costs.

Former Chittagong University economics teacher Mainul Islam said it could be difficult to make the Payra Port viable.

He also said that the Payra Port would not serve as a deep sea port as the government wants after dumping the idea of building a deep sea port at Sonadia Island with Chinese financial assistance because of geo-political reasons.

Because of a last minute persuasion by Delhi, Dhaka did not award the construction contract of the Sonadia Deep Sea Port to China during the prime minister’s visit to China in June, 2014, he added.

In 2015, British firm HR Wallingford conducted a feasibility study for the Payra Port and estimated that $20 billion would be needed to build the port, much of the amount for dredging.

Big ships cannot enter the port, inaugurated three years back, due to siltation.

The Payra Port officials said vessels with draught up to 12 metres would be able to anchor at the port during high tides even after the dredging would over to make channel 75 km long, 100 to 125 metres wide.

According to a statement, Jan De Nul Group posted in its website in January, nine dredgers including the world’s most powerful Cutter Suction Dredgers would be used to dredge the channel.

During the maintenance period, Payra Port Authority and Jan De Nul would develop the Payra Sea Port into a deep-sea port in accordance with a master plan under preparation.

In February, Payra Port Authority signed an agreement with Bureau of Research, Testing and Consultation, BUET and Royal Haskoning DHV of the Netherlands appointing them as consultants for making the master plan.

The deal requires the consultants to prepare the master plan in 18 months.

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