Bangladesh to set up container scanners at main port

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CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh, Oct 29 (Reuters) Bangladesh authorities will install nine US-built container scanners at the country's main Chittagong port following a security review conducted by a US agency, officials said today.

The scanners to be placed at the jetties and container yards are part of a 12 million dollars project to improve security and upgrade the port, which handles 80 per cent of Bangladesh's external trade.

''Some 126 close circuit television cameras and 150 smoke detectors have already been set up to boost security,'' Feroze Ahmed, chief of the port's traffic department, said.

All outbound and homebound containers will be scanned for illegal cargo, he said.

The United States Trade and Development Agency, which carried out a security review of various world ports which have trade links with the United States, recommended that scanners be installed at Chittagong port, officials said.

Bangladesh itself suffered a series of militant attacks in 2005, which have since stopped, following a crackdown on Islamist militant groups trying to convert the nation into a theocracy.

The seizure of explosives from a number of hideouts in early 2005 prompted calls for tighter border security including at the main port. Police also seized truckloads of sophisticated weapons from fishing boats near Chittagong port that year.

Chittagong port, 300 km southeast of the capital Dhaka, is located near the mouth of the river Karnaphuli that flows into the Bay of Bengal.

Cargo handling at the port rose 4 per cent to a record 27.13 million tonnes in the fiscal year to June, 2007, port officials said.

Container handling increased 10.46 per cent to 913,704 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers in the year (2006-07) from 827,174 TEUs in the previous year, they said.

REUTERS SKB KN1528

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