Shipping lines have stopped transporting cargoes containing hazardous chemicals, citing "complexities" in the unloading of these goods at Chattogram port.
This trend of not carrying chemicals came in the wake of the recent devastating fire at the BM Container Depot in Sitakunda.
As a result, a crisis of raw materials has been created in various chemical-dependent companies, including manufacturers of medical devices, leather, textiles and garments, said sector insiders.
On 7 June this year, shipping agent Ocean International Ltd sent a letter to JMI Industrial Gas Limited regarding stopping of transportation of hazardous goods which includes fire extinguisher, refrigerant gas, ethylene oxide, sulphur dioxide gas cylinder, sulphur hexafluoride, organic peroxides, hydrogen peroxide, ammonium nitrate, potassium nitrate, potassium chlorate, acetone, butanol, cyclohexanone, methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, butyl acetate, isopropyl, alcohol, thinner, xylene, ethyl acetate, solvent MTT, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, toluene, sodium nitrate, and sulphur.
Production at factories of JMI Group, the country's largest medical device manufacturer, is in crisis due to the chemical crisis, and to get rid of such a situation, JMI Industrial Gas Limited, a subsidiary of JMI Group, wrote a letter to the chairman of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) on 26 June.
The letter stated that JMI Industrial Gas Ltd is the only Ethylene Oxide (ETO) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2) gas blender and supplier in the country, which means all the local medical device manufacturers depend on the mixture of ETO and CO2 supplied by JMI Industrial Gas Ltd for sterilising their products.
In this case, if ETO cannot be imported on an emergency basis, the sterilisation process of the locally produced medical device will be disrupted. All medical systems, including public and private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres, will collapse, posing a serious threat to public health, reads the letter.
The letter requested the CPA chairman to take necessary steps on an urgent basis.
The chemical crisis has also affected various readymade garments and textile factories. The factories that used to use imported hydrogen peroxide are now meeting their demand with domestic hydrogen peroxide.
If the import of chemicals does not normalise soon, the factories will fall into a crisis in the days ahead, readymade garment association leaders fear.
However, Chattogram port officials said the authorities have not issued any order or imposed any prohibitions regarding the handling of dangerous goods. Such products and containers are being handled through the port as per the usual rules, following the instructions of the Bangladesh Navy, they added.
Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association Director Shahed Sarwar said shipping lines across the globe took many precautionary measures after major accidents like that in Lebanon's capital Beirut. After the fire incident in BM Depot in Sitakunda, the PSA Corporation of Singapore ordered to limit the shipment of hydrogen peroxide from Bangladesh on the pretext of safety and lack of capacity of the yard.
There should be a separate depot for hazardous chemicals, suggested Shahed.
CPA Secretary Md Omar Farooq and Director (Traffic) Enamul Karim were contacted by telephone but no one responded.