The Chittagong Port is at risk of accidents as the Chittagong Customs House authorities have not removed 259 containers of hazardous chemicals stuck in the port yard for a long time even though port authorities have issued several letters to customs authorities.
Till 5 April, there were 259 TUEs of containers with hazardous chemicals on the port yard, including goods received in 1994. The chemicals include sulphate, hydrogen peroxide, sulphuric acid, fire extinguisher, thinner, sodium sulphate, methanol, ethyl hexanol, nitric acid, and calcium oxide, said port authorities.
Port authorities said these chemicals need to be removed as soon as possible to avoid any accident similar to that in Lebanon's Beirut Port in 2020. The port got no response from customs authorities even after sending several letters regarding the matter.
On 15 March last year, the chairman of the port and the commissioner of the customs house jointly visited the site. The goods were supposed to be removed from the old customs auction warehouse within two months of the inspection, which could not be done despite the passage of a year.
Muhammad Idris Ali, professor of chemistry at Haji Mohammad Mohsin College, Chattogram, told The Business Standard that any kind of chemical or hazardous products need to be kept in separate places because each of these products reacts differently at different times and different temperatures.
If stored for a long time, they become harmful to the environment, water, air and above all, human life. Under no circumstances should such dangerous goods be stored for long in an important place like Chittagong Port, he added.
Meanwhile, Chittagong Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan has recently written to the secretary of the Ministry of Shipping to take necessary steps to remove the chemicals soon.
The letter reads that the Chittagong Port Authority constructed an auction warehouse at its own cost and space for storage of auctionable containers and goods for the customs department, but with various pretexts, the customs department has been using the old auction warehouse inside the port.
So, the space for the new warehouse remains unused. If the chemicals are removed the port can accommodate more containers.
The letter also requested the National Board of Revenue to take necessary actions to organise four to five e-auctions per month.
Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Farooq said it was the responsibility of the customs authorities to remove hazardous and auctionable goods from the port. Various organizations are involved in these processes too. The faster these products can be removed from the port, the easier the operational activities of the port become.
According to Chittagong Custom House sources, about 49 tonnes of perishable goods have been dumped in the P-shed of Chittagong Port. About 10 tonnes of goods have been transferred to the factory of Lafarge Holcim Bangladesh Ltd in Sunamganj for dumping.
Chittagong Customs House Commissioner Mohammad Fakhrul Alam said, "Apart from hazardous chemicals there are many other goods received even 40 years ago. It was not easy to remove 40-year-old goods with limited manpower. Even then we have no shortage of efforts. Attempts are underway to remove the old auction warehouse from the port."