Owners of 19 private inland container depots have decided to increase container handling charge by 12 percent, creating discontent among exporters and importers.
The new charge will be effective from next Monday.
Businessmen said it will raise business operation costs, which will ultimately impact consumers and exporters, especially readymade garments sector.
Previously, exporters had to pay Tk3,600 for handling a 20-foot export container which will be Tk4,100 after the hike. For handling a 40-foot container, the cost was Tk4,800 which will rise to Tk5,400.
At the same time, private container depots were charging Tk6,500 for handling a 20-foot import container, it will be Tk7,300. For handling a 40-foot container the charge was Tk7,500, it will be Tk8,400.
Every year, the inland container depots handle 600,000 TUEs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) export containers and 300,000 TUEs import containers.
The hike will widely impact the RMG sector which is already facing a hard time due to many issues.
In the meantime, Bangladesh Garments Exporters Association (BGMEA) urged the Chittagong Port Authority and the Ministry of Shipping to take immediate action to scrap the decision.
"When the prime minister has directed to reduce the cost of doing business, such a decision from the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association is unacceptable," said AM Chowdhury Selim, BGMEA vice-president in Chattogram.
If they do not withdraw the decision, the RMG sector will have to struggle for survival. The export sector has to spend Tk100 crore if they continue the additional charge of 12 percent, he added.
The tariff committee of the Ministry of Shipping is now working to decide on hiking the charge of container handling, he also said adding that the tariff committee has directed not to realise the additional charge before submitting their report.
So, realising the additional charge is a violation of the directives from the port authority and the ministry, he added.
"It is an unrealistic decision of the depot association. We have become hostage to private depots. We hope the ministry will play a vital role to solve the problem," said Khairul Alam Sujon, director of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association.
Md Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary at the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association, said, "They decided to hike the charge by 22 percent as it was suggested by the Chittagong Port Authority earlier. However, following a meeting with port authority Chairman Rear Admiral Zulfiqur Aziz, we have hiked the tariff by only 12 percent."
"In 2016, a port authority committee reported that the cost of private inland container depots was increased by 42 percent during 2010 to 2015. Although we intended to increase the charge by 42 percent, the committee suggested us to increase by 22 percent. However, after three years, we have decided to increase it by 12 percent only," Amin added.
Enamul Karim, director of Traffic of the Chittagong Port Authority, said, "In the meantime, a meeting was held. We are working to fix an acceptable charge. We hope to take a final call on it by Sunday."