The customs authorities are removing an old auction shed from the Chattogram Port, leaving a space for the country's main seaport to handle at least 1 lakh more twenty-foot equivalent unit (TEU) containers annually.
The Chattogram Customs House expects to hand over the space to the port authorities after removing all the goods by December this year.
Omar Farooq, secretary to the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), told The Business Standard that the removal of the shed from the protected area inside the port will create a space for about 10,000 TEU containers.
From the container handling, the port authorities can earn Tk15-20 crore more every year, he added.
At present, about 30 lakh TEU containers are handled annually in the port yard. The capacity of the port yard is 49,018 TEU containers.
The CPA has already constructed a new auction shed costing Tk22 crore for the Chattogram Customs House opposite the Port Stadium.
Although it was inaugurated in September 2015, the removal process of the old shed was stuck in various complications for six years.
Various products including cars were kept in the auction shed. Due to legal complexities, it was not possible to hand over auctioned cars and goods to the highest bidders.
About 100 Ansar members working in the customs house lived in an abandoned three-storey building. As a result, the customs authorities were slow to remove the auction shed.
Letters from the port authorities to the customs authorities at various times stated that as per the Special Measure Act of 1947, no individual was allowed to reside in the protected area. The current installation of the auction shed is in very precarious condition.
Besides, a meeting of senior officials of the port and customs was held at the Chattogram Port Bhaban in March 2018 in the presence of the then Shipping Minister Shahjahan Khan.
In the meeting, the customs authorities were asked to remove goods from the old auction shed within a month but it did not comply with the instruction.
Recently a meeting was held with Major (retd) Rafiqul Islam Bir Uttam, head of the parliamentary standing committee on shipping ministry and members of the committee, at the Bandar Bhaban. In the meeting, the customs authorities were asked again to remove the old auction shed.
This time the customs authorities have taken initiatives to remove the old auction shed from the protected area of the port.
To this end, the Chattogram Customs House issued a public notice on 11 October, requesting the people concerned to inform the auction authorities within seven working days if any bidder has already participated in the auction or if the highest bidder has been selected.
The notice has also asked importers if they have any cases or any orders over any shipment of cars.
Earlier, the Chattogram Customs House relocated the Ansar members to the new auction shed.
Al-Amin, the deputy commissioner at the Chattogram Customs House, told The Business Standard that the old auction shed was built about two decades ago.
In the shed, there are various types of products which include 146 vehicles, mostly cars, expired powdered milk, cosmetic chemicals, cloths, and blankets, he added.
The old auction shed is adjacent to the No.4 jetty gate of the port. Since these cars have been lying around for 15 to 20 years, they are covered with creepers.