Exporters, with $360 million worth of goods stuck because of the ongoing strike enforced by truck and covered van owners, are now bracing for a heavy blow as the latters are still reluctant to withdraw it until their three-point demand, including the reverse of diesel price hike, is met.
Apparel industry leaders say their losses caused by the ongoing strike will be big as a number of factories are facing a raw material crisis, while some are resorting to very costly air freight for shipments to meet deadlines from buyers.
Md Shahidullah Azim, vice-president at the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said, "We also have to count penalties of $2.5 lakh because of the three-day overstay at ports owing to the strike."
Generally, a ship has to pay $10,000 to $12,000 for a single day overstay at a port, depending on the size of a container, according to the port officials.
The BGMEA vice-president said every exporter now apprehends a big loss as they might be forced to send goods through air freights if the situation does not change.
Shahidullah said no exporters were able to shift goods to washing plants and embroidery units, while at the same time, factories are now facing a shortage of accessories.
BGMEA Vice-President Rakibul Alam Chowdhury said exporters are worried about their export shipments as the shortage of raw material supply hampered their production.
Mohamad Hatem, executive president at Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), said at least three exporters reported to the association that they have to bring back their goods from Chattogram port to send by air.
"If anyone misses vessels or deadlines, they have to send goods through air freight," he added.
Air freight accounts for 55% of a product's export price, said Hatem.
The Bangladesh Covered Van-Truck Prime Mover Goods Transport Owners' Association has decided to continue this strike, demanding withdrawal of increased fuel price, increased toll on Jamuna and Muktarpur bridges and tolls imposed by city corporations and municipalities.
Its Additional Secretary General Abdul Motaleb made this announcement at a press conference at the association office in Tejgaon on Thursday afternoon.
He said the transport of goods across the country will remain closed indefinitely until the three-point demand is met.
He further claimed that none of the government representatives talked with them over their demands.
Export products worth$350 million have remained stuck at the Inland Container Depots (ICDs) in the Chattogram port owing to the strike.
No export product entered the port for loading from ICDs.
Besides, goods-laden containers are not leaving the port due to the strike.
About 9,700 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containers remained stranded in the ICDs waiting for shipping as vehicles did not enter the port from Friday to Sunday.
Most products are readymade garments exports.
Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association estimated each TEU container holds products worth Tk40 lakh. In total, products worth around Tk3,000 crore remain stuck in the ICDs.
BICDA Secretary General Ruhul Amin Sikder said, "Although some containers were shipped on Friday night, no containers were shipped on Saturday and Sunday. They are currently in 19 ICDs."
The factory owners said production in factories is being disrupted as they are failing to take the supply of imported raw materials.
The lead time of product export has also been shortened by three days owing to delay in delivery of raw materials in the readymade garment industry for the transport strike.
The garment industry owners are extremely worried whether they will be able to export their products as per the orders of foreign buyers.
BGMEA First Vice-President Syed Nazrul Islam said export products of various RMG factories were brought to the ICDs in Chattogram from Dhaka on Saturday night with the help of highway police administration.
"If the crisis is not resolved by Sunday, RMG exporters will face huge financial losses. This type of movement [transport strike], by taking the economy hostage, is unwarranted," he told The Business Standard.
Bangladesh Freight Forwarder Association Director Khairul Alam Sujan said due to the untimely shipping of goods, it is uncertain whether the products will be delivered as per schedule to the buyers.
Chattogram C&F Agents' Association First Joint General Secretary Kazi Mahmud Imam Bilu said bill of entry submission at Chattogram Custom House is normal even though delivery at the port is closed.
"All activities are being carried out at normal pace on our part for customs duty on imported and exported goods. We are doing all the work related to tariffs so that the goods can be delivered quickly after the transport strike is lifted," he told TBS.
The government hiked diesel and kerosene prices by Tk15 to Tk80 per litre on Wednesday, citing a volatile global market for crude oil. In response, public and goods transport owners and workers called an indefinite nationwide strike, demanding either a rise in fares or a reversal of the hike.
300 Indian trucks stranded at Bhomra for strike
As many as 300 Indian trucks carrying goods remain stranded at Bhomra port in Satkhira following the truck crisis on Bangladesh side amid nationwide transport strike.
Because of the strike, importers are unable to unload imported goods from the Indian trucks.
Mostafizur Rahman Nasim, general secretary of the C&F Agents Association at Bhomra Port, said, "Around 400 imported trucks carrying goods entered from India on Saturday. Of these, goods from 100 trucks were delivered. The remaining 300 Indian trucks remain stranded at the port."
"This situation has been created due to the crisis of Bangladeshi trucks to transport goods from the Indian trucks. So far, the import-export activities are normal. However, if the strike is not called off soon, the number of trucks will increase," he added.
Assistant Commissioner, Bhomra Customs, Excise and VAT Office, Amir Mamun, said the import and export activities of the port have started as usual from 9 am.
The countrywide transport strike – protesting the recent fuel price hike – rolled into day three on Sunday intensifying the sufferings of commuters and inter-district passengers.
Export-import through Akhaura land port remain normal
Export-import activities have remained normal through Akhaura land port in Brahmanbaria on the third day of nationwide transport strike.
Truck operations remain normal in the port.
Traders said goods worth around USD 1million are exported through this port every day, except weekly holidays.
Assistant Director of Akhaura port Mostafizur Rahman said, it was the weekly holiday on the first day of the transport strike (Friday). Import-export was back to normal from the next day.
Truck operations have not been halted, goods laden trucks have arrived at the port even on Sunday, he added.