The Port of Chittagong is Bangladesh’s major port on the Indian Ocean. Lying about 12 miles inland from the mouth of the Karnaphuli River, the Port of Chittagong is an important communications center for the country. An important industrial city, it hosts many manufacturers extending for miles up the river. In 2001, over 2.2 million people called the Port of Chittagong home.
As early as the 4th Century BC, the Port of Chittagong was called Shetgang, and it welcomed ships from the Middle East and China. Historian Ptolemi reported that the Port of Chittagong was one of the finest ports in the East, and it was a mixing point for many ancient civilizations. Europeans, Turks, and Chinese traders settled here.
By the 9th Century AD, traders from Oman and Yemen called on the port. Muslim traders made the Port of Chittagong their base port. Calling it Samunda, they controlled the port for many years and developed the Port of Chittagong into a world-famous trading center.
Known in the 16th Century as Porte Grande by the Portuguese, it was an important port for that country. The first Portuguese captain arrived in 1517, and Captain Caaz Penira anchored vessels there in 1526.
The Portuguese gave way to the British during the 17th and 18th Centuries, and the Port of Chittagong grew in importance as a natural harbor and outlet for northeast British-India. In 1888, they introduced the official Port of Chittagong and built and administered jetties. In 1910, the Assam-Bengal Railway linked the port to the interior, and port commissioners and the railway jointly administered the port.
When India was partitioned in 1947, the Port of Chittagong became the only port for eastern Pakistan. It was assailed by sharply increased commercial traffic. New jetties and berths were constructed to keep pace.
Rapid development continued, necessitating a reorganization of port management. The Chittagong Port Trust was formed in 1960, replacing the earlier joint administration by commissioners and railroad. However, the newly organized trust did not meet the demands for commercial development. Needs to modernize and expand the Port of Chittagong led to establishment of the Chittagong Port Authority.
The Bangladesh government has long neglected the city of Chittagong. But at the turn of the 21st Century, when trade reached an historic high of $8 billion, investors took note of its strategic commercial location. Today, the Port of Chittagong handles almost all of Bangladesh’s exports and imports.
Exports are dominated by garments, frozen foods, jute goods, leather, tea, and chemical products. The city houses several large industries including automobile manufacturers, oil refineries, pharmaceutical and chemical plants, and steel mills.
Rapid commercial growth has led to a construction boom in the Port of Chittagong, and the city has seen many new buildings including hotels, shopping centers, and the Chittagong World Trade Centre.