- Scanners at Chattogram port
- Fixed scanners: 5 of out 12 gates
- Mobile scanners: 2
- 20% of imported goods undergo complete physical examination
- International Maritime Organisation's 2019 recommendation for installing scanners at all gates not yet implemented
After seizing smuggled liquor from two containers on Friday, Chattogram Customs House blocked 150 suspicious consignments in order to check their documents and physically examine them when necessary.
So far, the customs authority has found contraband liquor from three more consignments. Smuggling rackets tried to evade Tk57.83 crore duty with the five consignments in total, said sources at Chattogram Customs House.
People involved in the shipping sector said drug traffickers exploit inadequate checking facilities and shortage of scanners at the country's main sea port for trafficking drugs.
Chattogram Customs House Joint Commissioner Zakir Hossain told The Business Standard that the 150 consignments have been blocked after consideration of the country from which they were imported, the weight of the goods, and the name and address of the importer.
Five teams have been formed to verify the information on these documents. The customs officials will check the consignments whose document will contain contradictory information, he said.
If no one claims a suspected container, the authority will seize and examine it, said customs sources.
Sources at Chattogram Customs House said that only about 20% of goods imported through Chattogram port undergo 100% physical examination.
In case of FCL (full container load) cargo, importers can evade physical examination of their consignments by applying for scanning. The LCL (less than container load) cargoes are unloaded inside the port.
There are fixed scanners at only five of the 12 gates of Chattogram port and two mobile scanners, which can be brought to the containers, but these are not enough for scanning all the goods imported into the country.
In August 2019, a delegation of the International Maritime Organisation visited Chattogram port for two days and gave instructions to install scanning machines at all gates of the port and send out export products after scanning.
Following such instructions, two new scanners were installed at the port on 4 March 2020, but since then there has not been much progress in this regard.
The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) told TBS that installing scanners is the customs authority's responsibility. Only it will be able to say when those machines will be installed at all the gates at the port.
Chattogram Custom House Commissioner Mohammad Fakhrul Alam said the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has recently taken initiatives to purchase 14 new scanning machines. From there, allocation will be given as per Chattogram port's requirement.
Mahbubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries and Chattogram Port Users' Forum, told TBS, "The volume of imports and exports through Chattogram port is increasing every year. Customs authorities said they will install five more new scanners, but they have not done it yet. They should be scanners at every gate at the port."
Past trafficking incidents at Chattogram port
The Dhaka-based company Azmin Trade Centre imported 42 tonnes of poppy seeds – used in making opium – with an announcement of importing mustard seeds from Malaysia. Chattogram Customs House intercepted the shipment on 1 June 2021. The importer tried to launder Tk14.78 crore abroad in this incident.
On 23 February 2021, Chattogram Customs seized various brands of liquor from a private car with a Chittagong port sticker while they were being delivered to an autorickshaw.
In August 2019, liquor and beer imported under a declaration for capital machinery for the Payra Thermal Power Plant were seized at Chattogram.
On 6 June 2015, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate seized 370 litres of liquid cocaine in a shipment declared as sunflower oil at Chittagong port. Its price was about Tk9,000 crores.
On April 17, 2012, 1,486 cartons of liquor, including whiskey, brandy, vodka and gin, and 70 cartons of cigarettes were imported in two 40-foot containers, worth around Tk9 crore.