The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved dredging of Rabnabad channel of Payra seaport by Belgium-based company Jan De Nul.
The maintenance dredging will be done under direct purchase method, as the committee approved such a proposal placed by the Ministry of Shipping.
Payra is third seaport of the country that began limited operations in November 2013. Now the port is mainly handling coal for the power plants, established in the adjacent areas.
The Belgian company will dredge both the inner and outer bar of the port to make it navigable for large ships.
However, hydrographers and port experts at home and abroad are skeptical about the success of keeping required water depth of the port. They fear the need for constant costly maintenance dredging of the main channel of the port.
Some of them are also doubtful whether the port will be economically feasible or not for the maintenance dredging requirement.
Due to Payra port's geographical location, German marine geologist Hermann Kudrass predicted that the 75-kilometre-long and 100-metre-wide channel may fill in only two days with cyclone-time silt, turning it totally non-navigable.
Shipping Secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury told the FE on Wednesday that following the latest approval, the Belgian company will conduct the maintenance dredging at a cost of Tk 4.13 billion to facilitate coal transportation.
This dredging will start in December, which will be followed by another dredging by Jan De Nul, being appointed by Bangladesh-China Power Company (Pvt) Limited for carrying coal, he added.
The dredging has created nearly 6.3 metres water draft of the main channel.
In January last year, the Payra Port Authority signed a deal involving Tk 86.43 billion with Jan De Nul for capital dredging of the main channel to raise the water draft to 14.5 metres.
Before starting the capital dredging, the company will carry out a year-long test dredging in the channel to check siltation rate.
Mr Chowdhury said the main contract will be signed with Jan De Nul for capital dredging by December, which is being delayed due to difference over financing model.
After the deal signing, the test and maintenance dredging will begin, he added.