The nationwide transport strike triggered by increased diesel and kerosene prices has adversely affected the export and import activities at Chattogram Port at a time when businesses are working for recovery from the impact of Covid-19.
The delivery of imported goods at the port has been suspended since Friday morning, and if the strike continues, port officials and businessmen said, a severe container congestion will occur at the country's main port.
According to the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), the capacity of container handling is 49,018 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and needs 15% empty space for smooth operation. The number of containers lying at the port was 34,738 TEUs till 8:00am on Thursday.
In the last 24 hours, the port has received 3,416 TEUs imported containers and shipped 3,709 TEUs containers, including some empty ones.
From the port, 80% of the total containers are transported to different parts of the country by road, 18% by sea and only 4% by the railways. Every day 8,000-8,500 transports enter the port to load their deliveries.
On Friday, the port handled 1000-1,500 TEUs of containers while it will have to handle 3000-4000 TUEs containers on Saturday, said Omar Faruque, Secretary of Chattogram Port Authority.
"If the strike continues, the port will become congested with containers," he said, adding that operations of the port will be disrupted.
Businessmen and leaders termed the strike illegal and a threat to the readymade garment (RMG) as well as the country's export-import sector.
Moreover, they said the strike will create gridlock in traffic and a disruption to the schedule for deliveries of imported goods.
Saying that the RMG sector has been badly affected by the transport strike, BGMEA First Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam told The Business Standard, "The sector is just starting to turn back after the blow of Covid-19."
The shipment of exported goods which are already waiting at the port would be halted if the strike continues for an additional one or two days, he added.
Nazrul said, "Exporters would have to wait another week If they miss the shipment schedule of their goods. For that, buyers would likely demand air shipment or price reduction. "
Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) termed the overnight decision for goods transport strike as unfair for the country's export-import sector.
"Due to the price hike of diesel, the transport owners can give an ultimatum for three to five days," M Mahbubul Alam, president of CCCI, opined.
All delivery activities in the port remain halted as the transport owners halted transportation of goods, without any consultation, Mahbubul, also the chairman of M Alam group, added.
Besides, Bangladesh Truck-Covered Van, Tank Lorry and Prime Movers Owners and Workers Coordination Council went on an indefinite transport strike as the government moved to increase fuel prices along with the toll for Bangabandhu and Muktarpur bridges add the misery of the Covid-19-ravaged transport sector.
On Dhaka-Chattogram or any other route, the fare for covered vans is Tk19,500 while that of prime movers Tk21,000. After the fuel price hike, it will increase by Tk2,200 and Tk2,500 respectively, said Chowdhury Jafar Ahmed, director general of Bangladesh Covered Van, Truck and Prime Mover Transport Owner Association.
Every day around 20,000 goods-loading transports are entering and leaving the city, he added.
He also said the strike will continue until withdrawal of the fuel prices along with the toll for Bangabandhu and Muktarpur bridges.
Strike disrupts goods transportation at Mongla port, EPZ, industrial area
Transportation of goods and raw materials -- including oil, gas and cement -- from Mongla Port Jetty, from various factories in the industrial area and export processing zone (EPZ) in Khulna has been disrupted due to the transport strike, causing huge losses to businessmen here.
Hundreds of trucks were always seen queued in front of Mongla port and various factories in EPZ, Digraj industrial area. However, those places are seen empty on Friday and no transport left the areas.
Harbour Master Commander of Mongla Port Authority Sheikh Fakhar Uddin told The Business Standard (TBS) that the port saw less impact on goods delivery due to the strike as goods transportation through waterways remains as usual and by road goods transportation usually remains stopped on Fridays and Saturdays.
If the strike continues for more days, importers-exporters as well as the port have to count huge losses, he added.
Moreover, the bus owners and workers have completely stopped their service to Mongla-Dhaka-Chattogram, Mongla-Khulna, Mongla-Bagerhat-Barishal routes since Friday morning.
Due to the strike, commuters have to pay Tk300 instead of Tk100 to go to Bagerhat and Khulna from the Mongla area, doubling the sufferings of people -- a waste of time and paying extra money.
Abdur Rahim Box Dudu, general secretary of Khulna Division Truck Workers Union, told TBS that they have stopped transporting goods due to the transport strike. The fuel price hike will also increase their costs.
"The government will either fix the fuel price at the previous rate or hike the transport fare. Their transport strike will continue until the demands are met," he added.