Apparel exporters and freight forwarders have demanded that the Ministry of Shipping take up an initiative to launch direct vessel operations from Chattogram port to Europe and the USA to resolve the crisis the country's export sector is facing due to a shortage of vessels and congestion at transhipment ports.
At a meeting held at Chattogram BGMEA Bhaban on Sunday, leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association (BFFA) also decided to work jointly to resolve the export snag.
The meeting specified a set of three recommendations to resolve the crisis – holding a meeting with the buyers' forum to influence shipping companies through foreign buyers to increase the number of vessels, so that more containers can be shipped; holding meetings with diplomats from major export destinations – Europe and the USA – to find ways out to the existing crisis; and taking measures to operate vessels directly from Chattogram port to the ports in Europe and the USA and also strengthening the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation as the government body can launch vessels and feeder vessels on their own initiatives.
The country's inland container depots (ICDs) or off-docks that handle almost 100% of the export goods are clogged up with export containers due to a shortage of vessels and congestion at transhipment ports such as Singapore, Colombo and Port Klang.
According to the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA), the 19 ICDs can collectively store 10,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) export containers but currently, over 14,000 TEU of exports-laden boxes are waiting for shipping at the ICD yards.
Moreover, several thousand boxes of export containers are stuck at transhipment ports due to space shortages at mother vessels.
The import also is facing congestion due to congestion at the transhipment ports. Amid huge congestion at Singapore port Hapag-Lloyd, a German container shipping company has suspended its booking of import containers bound for Bangladesh via Singapore for a month since 24 June.
BGMEA First Vice President Syed Nazul Islam who led the BGMEA side at Sunday's meeting told The Business Standard, "The situation is turning more critical day by day. To solve the problem, our port should run direct mother vessels with Europe and the USA and we have the capacity to launch it. So, immediate action is needed to this end."
BGMEA Vice President Rakibul Alam Chowdhury and former first vice president Nasir Uddin also represented the BGMEA at the meeting.
BFFA Senior Vice President Amirrul Islam Chowdhury led the BFFA delegation that also comprised the association's Senior Vice President Amiya Shankar Barman, directors Khairul Alam Suzan and SM Mahbubur Rahman.