Three more European countries – Denmark, Portugal and Slovenia – have expressed their interest in direct shipment with Chattogram seaport, days after the introduction of seamless freight transportation with Italy. This has created a milestone in Bangladesh's export history.
The Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) and exporters say this is good news for the country's export sector. So the sooner direct shipment with other European countries like Italy can be started, the better for the country's economy.
CPA Secretary Md Omar Farooq said Danish Ambassador to Bangladesh Winnie Estrup Petersen had a meeting with the port authority on 14 February.
"At the meeting, the ambassador discussed with the port authorities the feasibility of starting direct cargo shipments in the future. Portugal and Slovenia have also shown interest in transporting goods. The two countries will soon discuss these issues virtually with the Chattogram Port Authority," he added.
Md Omar Farooq further said that the port authority will provide all kinds of cooperation on direct goods transportation with Europe.
"The Chattogram Port Authority thinks that the introduction of direct cargo transportation with Europe is a milestone for the country's garment industry and economy. This will also brighten the image of the country," he added.
The Chattogram Port Authority says that European Union member countries use each other's territory. There are opportunities to transport goods from one country to another by road. So if cargo goes to any country from Chattogram port, they can take it to their destinations by road.
According to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters and Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, readymade garment products account for about 82% of the country's total exports. Bangladesh sends around 51% of its overall exports to European countries. In addition, 25% of the exports go to the United States, 20% to Asian countries and 4% to Canada.
It takes about 40 days to reach Europe via various transhipment ports in Singapore, Malaysia, and Sri Lanka. Currently it takes only 16 days to transport goods directly to Italy. With the introduction of shipping on the new route, the delivery time has come down to 24 days. This will lower freight costs by about 40%, they added.
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, a vice-president of BGMEA, said it will benefit both garment manufacturers and foreign buyers. This will shorten lead time and the air shipment of goods.
"We hope that other countries will also come forward to transport goods directly from Chattogram as transporting goods to Italy has been successful," he added.
Besides Italy, he said, Germany is also a large market for Bangladeshi products.
"We expect the shipping lines to take the lead in introducing direct shipment with Germany soon. Direct shipment could also be introduced with the United States," added the garment exporter.
Chattogram port accounts for 92% of the country's import-export trade. Around 98% of the container shipment takes place here.
Recently, the Italian shipping company Kalypso Compagnia di Navigazione SPA has started transporting Bangladeshi exports through two container vessels – Songa Cheetah and Cape Flores. Reliance Shipping and Logistics is the local shipping agent of both ships in Bangladesh.
Another ship, AST Malta, will arrive at Chattogram port to carry goods to Italy, following the departure of the Songa Chita with 951 TUS containers on 7 February.
The ship is scheduled to reach Chattogram port from China on 2 March. It will leave the port for the port of Ravenna, Italy, with 128 TEUs export goods from Chattogram port.
Abul Kalam Azad, director of Reef Line, a freight forwarder, said the Songa Chita could not carry some goods on 7 February. Besides, some more Italy-bound goods are at Chattogram port. The ship is basically coming to Chattogram to take the goods.