Staff Correspondent: The container congestion in the prime port-Chattogram has been hampering exports of the country as the normal operations of the port is not conducting smoothly. The authority of CPA has failed to strengthen the smooth operation of containers, especially the unloaded containers are not returning to the mother countries of them. As a result, the space of the port areas have unwontedly occupied for unworthy reasons.
Steps like 24-hour port services and adding two container vessels to the jetty did little to ease container congestion as only about 1,500 TEUs of containers with export goods were shipped from the ICDs between 12 and 23 July.
Authorities and users are citing a number of reasons for container congestion. One of the reasons cited by the port authorities is that traders have not been taking delivery of containers carrying imported goods. Containers are not arriving timely from the private inland container depots (ICDs), which is another reason cited apart from shortage of feeder vessels. There were 15,533 TEUs of containers with export goods in the ICDs as of 12 July. Eleven days after allowing two more ships at the jetty, the container congestion has been reduced only by 1,500 till 23 July. Normally a container is loaded on ship within three to four days of filling the container with goods but at present shipping is not possible even in 10 to 15 days.
The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) sent a letter to the Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association, Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) and Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on 24 July urging them to unload their imported products. (See Page-7)
The letter signed by the CPA Secretary Md Omor Faruk said the authority has kept the Chattogram port open 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the Eid-ul-Adha holiday but sadly the importers were not taking any initiative to take delivery of their containers.
“In this situation, a special request was made to unload containers / goods from Chattogram port on an emergency basis. Otherwise, the Chattogram Port Authority may consider imposing a penalty on the unloaded containers,” said the letter.
In this regard, BGMEA’s First Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam said, “The factories were closed during the Eid holidays. Besides, garment owners were not able to take delivery of imported goods from the Chattogram port due to the lockdown.”
“If the government exempts the garment factories from the lockdown measures, it will be easier to take delivery of imported raw material for the readymade garment industry at the Chattogram port,” he said.
Aside from the container congestion at the port yard, the pile of containers carrying export goods has not yet reduced in the private inland container depots (ICDs) due to lack of feeder vessels carrying containers to the transshipment ports.
Normally, there are 6,000 containers in 19 ICDs, but currently there are 14,049 TEU’s (twenty-foot equivalent unit) of containers waiting for ships. The ICDs typically have the capacity to accommodate containers equivalent to 10,000 TEUs.
The authorities concerned including the Ministry of Shipping, ports authority, Shipping Agents Association, BGMEA have held meetings on the issue, but the clutter of containers is not diminishing even after that.
However, in a letter to the president of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (Bicda) on 19 July, the terminal manager of the CPA alleged that ships were not able to carry export good-laden containers as per their capacity as the containers do not arrive at the port on time.
Denying the allegations, the Bicda said they have not been able to send the goods to Chattogram port even after loading them in containers as they do not receive the nomination papers or letters from the freight forwarders.
According to the CPA’s letter on 19 July, arrangements have been made to continue export-oriented container shipments with adequate number of equipment and manpower during the Eid-ul-Adha holiday. The letter requested Bida to bring the containers at the hook point six hours before the departure of the feeder vessel.
The country’s exports goods are brought to 19 private ICDs for loading them into containers before shipping. After loading the products, the containers are taken from the ICDs to the Chattogram Port as per the schedule of the ship.
Bicda president Nurul Qayum Khan told, “The allegation that the containers were not reaching the hook point on time was not correct. The letter given to the Bicda is conventional. Mainly, the export goods are not being sent to the port even after loading due to the ship crisis.”
The Bicda president said 19 private ICDs have space to store containers of 77,000 TEUs. Till 23 July, 14,049 TEUs of containers with export goods were waiting to be loaded on ships. There were also 9,500 TEUs of imported cargo containers and 30,500 TEUs of empty containers at the ICDs.
Covered vans, prime movers and lorries carrying export goods from different parts of the country were seen waiting at the gates of the ICDs as containers loaded with export goods were not being shipped. On Saturday, this reporter was on his way to Chattogram from Mirsarai when he saw hundreds of cargo vehicles parked at the KDS depot in Kumira area of Sitakunda and the Port Link depot in Bhatiari area.
Syed Mohammad Arif, president of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association, said “All port-related organisations have to work together to keep the supply chain in order. Although there are ships in the port, it is not possible to load them with goods on time due to labour crisis.
“Several institutions including the port, customs, ICD, shipping agents are operating during Eid holidays, but traders are not unloading containers from the port. For these reasons, I do not see the possibility of a sudden reduction in container congestion,” he said.
The CPA has decided to allow two more container ships to dock at the jetty to resolve the crisis of shipping of export goods including the readymade garments. Earlier, 10 container vessels were loaded at the port at one time at the jetty but currently this number has been increased to 12.
Besides, the port authorities on 12 July have decided to send back 2,000-2,500 empty containers of 20 TEUs to the transshipment port to overcome the challenge of import-export related problems at the port.
There were 15,533 TEUs of containers with export goods in the ICDs as of 12 July. Eleven days after allowing two more ships at the jetty, the container congestion has been reduced only by 1,500 till 23 July. Normally a container is loaded on ship within three to four days of filling the container with goods but at present shipping is not possible even in 10 to 15 days.
Chattogram Port Authority Secretary Md Omor Faruk told, “The port authorities had decided to launch six new feeder vessels on the Chattogram-Colombo route to ease congestion at the transshipment port. All of them will start operations gradually.”
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