Mismanagement at Chittagong port has once again become a topic of discussion after 68 tonnes of steel products went missing, costing the berth operator a fine of Tk 22 lakh.
In May, Energypac, a local power company, imported 700 tonnes of pre-engineered steel products from China for making sheds at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant at a cost of $420,000 or nearly Tk 3.4 crore.
But the berth operator failed to deliver Energypac 68 tonnes of the products after it went missing from the port.
The power company then complained to the Chittagong Port Authority and finally the berth company compensated for the loss, said Humayun Rashid, managing director of Energypac.
Energypac's missing consignment is part of a laundry list of complaints against Bangladesh's premier seaport, through which over 80 percent of export and import activities take place.
Incidents of mismanagement are a daily occurrence at the port -- if it is not at the customs, it is at the clearing and forwarding department or in some other sections.
For instance, last week Commerce Minister Tofail Ahmed had to call the CPA chairman after an aggrieved group of commodity traders gathered at his secretariat office in Dhaka over long delays in release of their consignments.
The delays have been impacting the prices of some of the commodities in the local market, with onion being one of them.
The prices of onion skyrocketed in the city markets due to shortage of supply, although onion-laden ships are waiting to be unloaded in the port for many days.
The minister asked the CPA chairman to release the basic commodities from the port within 24 hours.
The delays at the Chittagong Port have gone from bad to worse when two out of the four operational gantry cranes of the port went out of order on June 28.
This contributed to space crisis at the port yards. As of yesterday, a total of 6,200 TEUs (twenty feet equivalent units) of off-dock bound import-laden containers were lying at the port yards, which is way past the capacity of 1,000-1,500 TEUs.
The two gantry cranes are being repaired, according to Md Jafar Alam, member for administration and planning at the CPA.
“One will take three months to fix and the other six months,” he said, adding that the CPA fined the shipping company Tk 39 crore for which the gantry cranes were damaged.
Alam went on to state that the turnaround time at the port has lessened due to rolling out of round-the-clock operations on August 1.
Now, the average turnaround time of ships at the port is 4.5 days, down from 10 days in the aftermath of the breakdown of the two cranes.
“The average waiting time at the Chittagong port now is 2.9 days. I am hopeful that the situation will improve further in 10 days as we are using another jetty,” said the member.
He also said the number of missing incidents this year has decreased compared with last year as the authority has taken strict measures. He went on to cite an incident of 14 missing containers last year as a case in point.
“The containers were taken away from the port through signature forgery. This was a case of huge mismanagement of the port's customs department.”
However, Alam could not give a figure of the missing incidents so far this year. The Chittagong port handled 2.41 million TEUs last year, while it has the capacity to take care of 2.64 million TEUs, according to the CPA.