The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent suspension of export and import for several months caused a 2 percent drop in the number of ships docking at Chattogram Port in 2020 compared to the previous calendar of 2019.
The number of ships dropping anchor in the Chattogram Port was 3,807 in 2019, but came down to 3,728 in 2020, according to the Chattogram Port Authority.
"The export-import declined last year due to corona. A total of 28,39,977 TEU (Twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers were handled in 2020, whereas the number was 30,88,187 containers in 2019," said Director (Traffic) of Chattogram Seaport Enamul Karim.
However, the country's largest seaport had managed to keep up 3.4 percent growth in terms of loading and unloading of container ships in the last fiscal that ended in June 2020, though the outbreak of Covid-19 started in the country in March.
There was lockdown in the country throughout April and May and almost all work remained halted. So a smaller number of ships anchored in the port as the import of goods declined, said Secretary of Chattogram Port Authority Omar Faruk
"Despite of it, the growth of handling goods was 3.4 percent in the 2019-20 fiscal year," he told UNB, adding that some 10.16 crore tonnes (exactly 10,15,65,272) of goods were handed in the port in the 2019-20 fiscal year, but the amount was some 9.82 crore tonnes (precisely 9,82,40,655) of goods in 2018-19 fiscal year.
Besides, the seaport faced different problems last year, including severe backlog of containers caused by slow delivery, congestion of ships in the outer anchorage and evacuation of jetties due to the threat of cyclones.
Some 98 percent of sea containers (goods) is transported through Chattogram seaport to and from the country. Some 12 jetties are used in the loading and unloading process of the ships.
On average 20-30 ships every day are waiting in the outer harbor for anchoring in the jetties during the normal time, but only 8 to 10 ships can be unloaded each day.
Earlier, the Chattogram seaport was on the verge of dropping out of the list of the world's "three millionaire ports", i.e. those that handle 3 million TEU containers annually, due to decline in the country's import and export through sea amid the Covid-19 pandemic, said Enamul Karim. There are 60 such ports in the world.
The final figures for the year show the port has indeed failed to reach the 3 million mark in 2020, having handled just over 2.8 million such containers.
Convenor of the port users' forum and president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mahbubul Alam said the severity of Covid-19 is still high in the European countries, which are major markets of Bangladeshi products. Even lockdown has been enforced again in many European countries, which badly affects the container handling of the Chattogram port.
The Chattogram Port is the 64th busiest container port among 100 top ports across the world, according to the 2019 edition of Lloyd's List of One Hundred Ports.