A number of rice-laden vessels have started arriving at the Chittagong port but unloading of the staple is being delayed due to logistical shortcomings at the port.
A dearth of the required number of lighter vessels and a lack of jetties in the port mainly delayed the discharge. Foul weather with incessant rain also played a part.
A total of 15 vessels carrying 3.23 lakh tonnes of rice imported from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar have arrived in the last three months. The vessels took on average a month to discharge the commodity, with one taking as long as 45 days to complete the process.
Another vessel arrived on September 19 but it is still being offloaded, according to data from the Chittagong Port Authority and the food department.
After the arrival of a ship at the outer anchorage, a portion of the goods needs to be transferred to the small-sized lighter vessels to decrease the ships' draft to get access for berthing at a port jetty.
Once at the jetty, the rest of the cargo is unloaded as well as those from the lighter vessels.
In case of rice, another 5-6 days are needed to complete sample test and other customs procedures.
But in at least three cases the food department team could not reach the vessel at the outer anchorage due to heavy rain and cancelled the trip halfway through, said Md Zahirul Islam, controller of movement and storage under the food and disaster management ministry.
“Foul weather wasted most of our time,” he said, adding that the shortage of lighter vessels and the non-availability of enough jetties at the port were the other reasons for the delay.
It hampered the discharge of goods both at the outer anchorage and the port jetty.
The 15 vessels had to wait at the bay for an average of 15 days before getting the permission for berthing at the port.
Many of the allocated lighter vessels that usually carry clinkers and fertilisers were not considered fit for carrying rice by the food department, so they needed to be replaced, said Abul Hossain, managing director of Uni Ship, the local agent for most of the foreign ships.
The CPA dedicated two of its jetties for giving priority to the rice-laden ships but sometimes it was not possible as the port was already facing huge vessel congestion, Islam said.