The coronavirus pandemic has badly affected container delivery at Chittagong Sea Port.
Under usual circumstances, an average of five thousand goods-laden containers are released from the country's premier seaport but the number has dropped to as low as two thousand at present.
Importers fear the government-announced 10-day general holiday will lead to a further decline in container deliveries at the port.
Against such a backdrop, the business community is very apprehensive about a large disaster in trade and commerce, although the Chittagong Port Authority has announced it would continue its activities relating to import-export, cargo handling and goods delivery.
The proprietor of import company Hasan & Brothers, Sarwar Alam Khan, said businesses are experiencing a hard time due to the coronavirus outbreak. The general holidays announced by the government might further worsen the situation, he added.
"Even if the port remains open during the 10-day general holiday, from March 26 to April 4, goods delivery will not be possible if other institutions concerned are closed," he explained.
He therefore urged all relevant authorities, alongside the port authority, to play a proactive role in releasing goods.
Additionally, he demanded an exemption for charges that the businesses must bear if their containers are kept at port yards for more than four days.
Secretary to the Chittagong Port Authority Omar Faruk, however, said importers must pay the fees as per the rules if their goods are stored at the port yards for more than four days.
"We have not received any directives with respect to exempting the charges as yet" he noted.
Legal Affairs Secretary to Chattogram C&F (Clearing and Forwarding) Agents' Association Zainul Abedin said it is difficult to determine the actual damage caused to the export-import sector due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Claiming that the situation is growing more complicated day by day, he said around 2,500 C&F agents in Chattogram are finding it hard to continue their operations.
From the analysis of data regarding the delivery of import containers from Chittagong Port, it is found that as many as 1,519 containers were released on the first day of the current month. The number of released containers was 2,765 on March 23. The number wavered between 2,000 and 3,000 on the other days of the month.
Meanwhile, an office order issued by the Chittagong Port Authority on Wednesday said the export-import activities, container handling and delivery will continue during the general holidays like in any other public holiday. The: transportation, health, security, mechanical, electrical, engineering, administration and accounts departments will remain open. The administrative work will continue through e-filing as well.
Additional Commissioner of the Chattogram Custom House Kazi Ziauddin said customs activities will continue on a limited scale to release foodstuffs, medicine and other important commodities.