The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) has decided to berth two more container vessels at the Chattogram Port jetty to resolve the shipment crisis of export products including readymade garments.
At present, 10 container vessels berth at the jetty of Chittagong port. Now, it is being increased to 12.
At the same time, to make room for export products, the CPA has also decided to send about 2,500 TEU empty containers from the port yard and ICDs to the transshipment ports.
The CPA made the decision at a meeting on Monday at the conference room of the Chattogram Port Building, organised to prepare a work plan to address the import-export challenges.
The meeting was attended by senior officials of Chattogram Port and various port-related organisations including BGMEA, Shipping Agents Association, Bangladesh Container Depots Association, and Freight Forwarders Association.
As of Monday, due to the shipment crisis, 15,533 TEU (Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit) containers full of export goods were lying in 19 private ICDs; whereas, the capacity of the ICDs is only 10,000 TEU containers.
Due to the container crisis, about 1,000 cargo trucks and lorries await at the ICD gate every day. Normally containers were shipped within 3 to 4 days of loading, but at present shipments are not possible even in 15 days.
CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan said 10 container vessels currently berth at Chattogram Port. It has been decided to provide berthing for 12 container vessels for speedy shipment of export goods. It was also decided to send back 2,000-2,500 empty TEU containers to the transhipment port.
He said among the mainline operators, Maersk Line, a Danish international container shipping company, currently transports more goods on the Singapore route. The company was requested to increase shipping on the Chattogram-Colombo route.
Besides, garments remain closed during Eid holidays. If exports continue uninterrupted at this time, the situation will return to normalcy. It has been recommended to transfer the containers to the ICDs that have comparatively vacant space, the port chairman said.
It is learnt that this meeting organised to decide on the technical issues related to the implementation of the decisions made in the meeting of the shipping ministry. The decisions made at Monday's meeting cover some of the 10-point proposal placed by the BGMEA.
BGMEA's 10-point proposal to resolve the crisis
Meanwhile, to resolve the current crisis in the shipment of readymade garments, BGMEA President Faruque Hasan has submitted a 10-point proposal on 11 July to the CPA chairman and secretary of the shipping ministry.
Earlier on 7 July, the shipping ministry organised a virtual meeting to discuss the problems created over the shipment of export containers at the Chattogram Port.
According to the BGMEA president's letter to the port chairman, the mainline operator (MLO) is not taking steps to ship the container from the private ICD due to the increase in ship rent during the pandemic. Despite having transport contracts, MLOs are not bringing enough empty containers to load the exports and there is not enough space for the export containers in the ICD as empty containers have occupied the space. For this reason, hundreds of export consignment trucks are lined up at various ICD gates. As a result, exporters have to pay two to three times more extra rent for trucks.
The BGMEA's proposal calls for taking the initiative to operate feeder ships with ports in various countries, including China and South Korea. It also called for providing urgent instructions for the sake of national interest to keep the export activities afloat by expediting the shipping of loaded containers, summoning the shipping companies who have contracted with nominated buyers to supply the required number of empty containers.
Since shipping of goods is not possible without the designated shipping company, BGMEA called for forcing the nominated shipping company of the foreign buyer, through the port, to transport the exported goods
It called for stopping the forced shipment of empty containers of shipping companies and demanded adequate space for storage of export containers at the port jetty.
The BGMEA's proposal calls for speedy clearance of new vessels and ensuring birthing facilities to reduce the length of stay of ships in the outer seas. It urged to increase the number of mother vessels and to facilitate export shipments through 20-foot sized containers as there is a shortage of 40-foot sized containers for export at present. BGMEA also called for providing guidelines for the introduction of Common Carrier Agreement and Container Direct Interchange between various MLOs and feeder operators.
Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association, said the crisis in the ICDs caused by the shipment crisis is not going to be resolved soon.
However, if the garment industry remains closed during the Eid-ul-Adha holidays, the export products will stop coming to the ICDs. The situation will be somewhat normal if the remaining export products are shipped during this period.
BGMEA President Faruque Hasan said the decisions taken at Monday's CPA meeting would alleviate the current crisis. This crisis can be solved if new routes connecting the Chattogram Port to other ports of the world are introduced.
Syed Nazrul Islam, first vice-president of BGMEA, said a large number of export consignments from various garment industries are scheduled ahead of the upcoming Eid-ul-Adha. At present, a large number of export cargo trucks/covered vans are waiting outside the gates of private ICDs for 7-10 days to unload the consignment. As a result, the rent of trucks and vans increases at an abnormal rate, creating a crisis in the transportation of export-import goods.
Syed Nazrul Islam urged the port authorities to make arrangements at the port jetty to store the export containers after transporting from the private ICDs.