The number of containers at the Chattogram port has decreased to 3,658 within eight days after the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) doubled store rents on 8 March.
The CPA has imposed the new rates for importers who fail to release their consignments within 11 days of unloading, with a view to ensuring supplies of consumer goods ahead of Ramadan. If this continues, the number of containers will decrease further.
But businesspeople and clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents suggested that the port authorities find another way in resolving the container congestion, rather than slapping the fines, which will benefit both businesses and consumers. Because the move may result in price hikes.
According to port sources, importers can store containers in the port yard without any charge for four days after unloading. After the four days, a 20-foot container costs $6 per day for the first week, and $12 per day for the second week. Then from the third week, the charge increases to $24 per day.
The regular container rents will double for importers who fail to release consignments after 11 days of the common landing.
According to the new rates, importers will have to pay $24 daily for the first week after the 11-day, and $48 daily after 21 days.
Chattogram port can accommodate at most 49,018 containers. But port officials said 15% of the port capacity had to be kept empty for smooth operations. Container-laden vehicles would be at risk of accidents if the 15% space was occupied.
According to the port's performance data, as of 15 March, there were 34,716 containers in the port yard. On 14 March, the port yard had 33,136 containers. The number dropped by 3,658 in span of two days following the imposition of double store rents.
According to the port authorities, imports through the port increase ahead of Ramadan. Many businessmen use the port yard for storing the goods since they do not have their warehouses. As a result, the port authorities face container congestions almost every Ramadan.
Kazi Mahmud Imam Bilu, first joint general secretary of the Chattogram C&F Agents Association, said, "The port authority had assured us of withdrawing the double store rents when the container congestion would ease. We expect the authority to reconsider the decision as the congestion has now eased."
Mahbubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said importers in many cases could not take delivery in time due to some issues, including documents.
"On the other hand, the pandemic-led crisis has not ended. Doubling rents at this time could affect market prices. The port authority should reconsider it," he said.
The pandemic-led crisis is not over yet. Businesses are already in losses. At such a time, the double store rents will lead to a hike in prices of goods at the consumer level. So, the port authority should reconsider it soon."
He also suggested that businessmen receive their imported consignments from the port on time.