Chittagong Port the principal sea port of Bangladesh, is situated in the estuary of the karnafuli River, which originates in the hills north-east of the chittagong hill tracts and flows into the bay of bengal. The main significance of this port lie in the fact that it provides a deep-water anchorage a few miles inland from the sea. The steering distance is 16 kilometres from the outer bar on the Bay of Bengal to the main berths on the bank of the river Karnafuli.
It is a deepwater seaport dominated by trade in containerised manufactured products (especially ready made garments), raw materials and to a lesser extent passengers. It is one of the two main sea port of Bangladesh - most of the export and import of the country are handled via this port. Window berthing system was introduced at the seaport on August 6, 2007, enabling the sea port to provide the arrival and departure times of all ships. Two berths at the port terminal are kept in reserve for emergency. In 2006 the port handled 27 million tonnes of cargo and 0.8 million tonnes of containers . The port handled 1.5 million TEUs (twenty equivalent units) containers in 2010-11, up from 12.12 lakh TEUs in the previous year, according to the CPA Traffic Department.
The location of the port and its natural harbour made it an important centre of trade and business as far back as the 9th century AD when the Arab merchants found it to be a lucrative centre for trade. By the beginning of the 15th century, the port of Chittagong was an important trading centre. Chinese chronicler ma huan, who visited Chittagong in 1405 with a Chinese mission, refers to "Chit-le-gan" as a port frequented by Chinese trading vessels. The most frequent visitors to the port were the Arabs.
The history of Chittagong port dates back to the fourth century B.C. Malayan history chronicles the journey of the sailor Buddha Gupta from Chittagong to Malaya in the 4th century B.C. The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea documents the existence of Chittagong port in the ancient times. Chittagong derives its name from the Arabic word Shetgang (Shet means delta and Gang the river). The Arab traders considered Chittagong to be the delta of the Ganges.
Chittagong port has been mentioned in the works of Ptolemy, Fa-hien, Hieu-en tsng, lbn Battuta. This was an important port used by the traders from the Middle East, China, Turkey, Europe to trade with this part of the world.
During the 9th century the activities of the port increased tremendously as the Arab traders started using the port as their base port. They used to call the port "Samunda". The port was under their control at the time.
The 16th century saw the arrival of the Portuguese. Joaoda Silveria was the first Portuguese Captain to reach the port. He arrived with his ship “LOPO SOANA” in 1517. The Portuguese named the Port PORTE GRANDE (a great Port ). The records show that the Porte Grande offered easy access and safe anchorage to ships of 20 feet draught.
It remained a port during Moghul time. Later in early 19th century the British took control of the Chittagong port.The port of Chittagong became a natural outlet for the Northeastern regions of the then British-India that led to the enactment of Port Commissioner’s Act of 1887. At that time the facilities of the port consisted of five wooden and one pontoon jetties. In the year 1889-90 the port handled exports totalling 1.25 lac tons