Chittagong Custom House's revenue collection through auctioning off undelivered goods brought in by evading duty, smuggling and misdeclaration has nearly doubled as the authorities moved to expedite the auction process earlier in 2021.
Starting in 2021, the custom house decided to arrange two auctions instead of one aiming to clear 15% of the port yard area occupied with products awaiting auction.
In 2020, the custom house generated a revenue of Tk65.30 crore through 13 auctions, which jumped to 24 last year and the revenue collection reached Tk115.65 crore.
According to its data, a total of 88 auctions took place in six years from 2016 to 2021 and the total revenue collection stands at Tk381.26 crore.
In 2019, 2018, 2017 and 2016 the figures were respectively Tk 70.55 crore (11 auctions), Tk67.89 crore (20), Tk35.16 crore (11) and Tk26.71 crore (9).
"At present, the activities of the auction department are more dynamic than before. To clear off undelivered products, we are holding two auctions a month and we are also emphasising on e-auctions in addition to the conventional auctions," Ali Reza Haider, deputy commissioner (auction) of Chittagong Custom House, told The Business Standard.
"In 2022, the overall auction activities will gain more momentum," he added.
In 2020-21 fiscal year, the overall revenue collection of the Chittagong Custom House was Tk51,577 crore, which was Tk41,854 crore in the 2019-20 fiscal.
Customs authorities halt the release of undelivered products, which are imported through tax evasion and misdeclaration. According to the rules, it issues a 30-day notice to importers and if they fail to take delivery of products within 15 days of receiving the notice the products are auctioned off.
Although the undelivered products are supposed to be auctioned off within 45 days, it usually takes years to put the stuck products to auctions.
The container capacity at the Chittagong port is 49,018 TEUs, of which currently some 7,000 containers are containing goods that are up for auction.
Port authorities say that they regularly write to the customs authorities, which holds the jurisdiction to auction unreleased goods, to clear the occupied port yard area.
Customs, on the other hand, says it takes time to auction off products due to various reasons including legal and procedural complexities, manpower crises, and space crises. However, officials also added that they want to solve this problem quickly by doubling the number of auctions.
Unreleased products awaiting auctions include fruits, electronics, fruits, Fabrics, garment accessories, chemicals, hardware, paper and paper materials, readymade garments, steel products, ceramic items, frozen foods, consumer products and cars etc.
The issue of non-disposal of auctionable containers came up in the last meeting of the 14th advisory committee of the Chittagong Port. The meeting, presided over by the State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, was held in December 2020.
The meeting minutes, signed by Mohammad Zahidul Islam Mia, senior assistant secretary of the shipping ministry on 26 March 2021 were sent to the authorities concerned. Zafar Alam, a member of the Chittagong Port Authority (Administration and Planning), mentioned in the meeting minutes that disposal of actionable containers has become a major issue for the Port. So far, 7,252 containers have been handed over to Customs for auction.
Analysing the statistics, it was revealed that due to untimely disposal of auction containers, the port has so far been deprived of revenue amounting to around Tk1m549 crore due.
According to port sources, the port is unable to handle some 2,50,000 containers every year due to over 7,000 containers full of auctionable goods that are stuck at the port yard.