Chittagong port has only four key gantry cranes, two of which are now out of order, whereas it needs 26. It requires 52 rubber tyred gantry cranes but has only 23 at the moment.
Only 87 container loading and unloading equipment are in operation at the country's largest port against the requirement of 299. The number of cargo handling equipment is 285 but should be 895.
The weak infrastructure scenario speaks a lot on why the port is failing time and again to facilitate the country's growing international trade.
The port facilitates 92 percent of the country's exports and imports. But the equipment shortage is weighing in on exports and imports as port users are regularly facing delays in the shipment of goods.
Under the circumstances, garment manufacturers have urged the government to take immediate measures to address the congestion at the port in order to help them maintain the strict lead time set by international retailers.
The situation prompted the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) yesterday to hold an urgent press conference at its office in Dhaka.
Addressing the media, BGMEA President Siddiqur Rahman said it takes 15 to 20 days for releasing goods from the port whereas earlier it took two days.
“As a result, the costs of production at factory level and shipment are increasing,” he said.
He said although BGMEA has been pleading for the government to set up new jetties and yards at the port for many years, such important decisions have not been taken yet.
In a written statement, Rahman said there are 19 empty handlers at the port whereas it needs at least 39. Some 43 tractor trailers are in place instead of the required 130. In the absence of the much-needed infrastructure, the garment exporters are being forced to choose the expensive route, shipping goods through airlines to keep within the timeframe of buyers.
The association also pointed at incidents of vessels leaving the port without taking containers as part of the authorities' effort to ease the vessel congestion.
“It has never happened that a container has been received at the port but was denied being loaded onto the ship. But now it is happening.”
It said the port authorities first should release raw materials to exporters on time and create space to put export-bound containers. “After that if the authorities tighten rules we will have no objection.”
BGMEA, however, thanked the prime minister for buying explosives detection system (EDS) for Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The machine was brought to the airport through air routes.
“We had been facing a difficult situation in sending goods to Europe. Now the work to set up the EDS is going on. We hope the machine will start running within two to three days and the stalemate will go as a result.”
The BGMEA chief thanked the government for its decision and quick implementation of keeping the customs stations open round-the-clock.
“This has been the long demand of garment exporters. This is a historic and epoch-making decision.”
Rahman also said manufacturers are also facing delays in importing raw materials needed for the garment sector through the Benapole land port.
Normally, it takes two days to move raw materials-loaded trucks from Haridashpur to the Benapole land port.
“But sometimes it takes 10 days. We would like to request the government to see whether cargo trains could be introduced on the Dhaka-Kolkata route,” he said.
The vessel congestion has prompted the Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry to organise a discussion on the port's current situation in the capital on Saturday.