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Bangladesh - July 7, 2021

Exports hampered despite many empty containers lying idle

Special Correspondent:People may be surprised to learn that many empty containers are sitting idle in private inland container depots (ICDs) in Bangladesh, despite the fact that the ICDs are clogged with export cargoes due to a severe scarcity of empty boxes.
As of yesterday, there were 26,336 empty containers at 19 private ICDs. However, there are just a few containers that are expressly necessary to transport exports.
Of them, there are 13,647 boxes of 20-foot containers, while the remaining 12,689 are 40-foot containers.
Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA) Secretary Ruhul Amin Sikder said small-sized 20-foot containers are not preferred to carry export cargoes. The bigger 40-foot containers are more suited for the purpose.
Although there are 12,689 40-foot empty containers in the ICDs, most of them cannot be booked for many reasons, he said. Some of the 40-foot containers have got damaged and are not in a position to load cargoes, he added.
Khairul Alam Sujan, director of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said many of the empty containers are idling as their owners –shipping companies or mainline operators (MLOs) — do not provide services to the ports in the US and the EU, the two major export destinations for the country’s garment sector.
The most required MLOs for transporting goods from Bangladesh are Hapag-Lloyd, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Hyundai Merchant Marine, CMA CGM, and Maersk Line.
“There is an acute shortage of empty containers of these MLOs,” Sujan said.
Hapag-Lloyd currently has 390 boxes of 40-foot containers sitting idle, while the company has a weekly demand for over 700 of them, according to the local agent of the German shipping company. Abul Kalam Azad, general manager of operations at GBX Logistics and the local agent of Hapag-Llyod, said they are bringing 300 TEUs of 40-foot empty containers from transhipment ports, and they would be available after a week.
According to officials of several shipping companies, most of them are unwilling to give bookings for their containers due to an acute space shortage in the mother vessels at transhipment ports.
A total of 1,650 boxes of 40-foot empty containers owned by MSC are lying idle at the ICDs, but the company has slowed the booking process due to a space shortage in the mother vessels that sail from Colombo and Singapore transhipment ports.
Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) currently has 3,000 boxes of 40-foot empty containers in the ICDs. However, it also suspended new bookings for exports to the EU mainly for the same reason.
OOCL Country Head Giasuddin Chowdhury said they were unable to take new bookings since most mother vessels had reduced capacity or were avoiding voyages to various EU ports because of acute vessel congestion at the ports.

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