Chittagong port's spatial crisis seems no nearer to resolution as import goods-laden containers are now being piled up for failure to timely despatch them to the overflowing 16 inland container depots.
After the containers are unloaded from ships, they are taken to the ICDs, dotted around Chittagong, from where the importers take their delivery.
As of yesterday, a total of 6,581 TEUs (twenty feet equivalent units) of import-laden containers were lying at the port yards, which is way past the capacity of 1,000-1,500 TEUs.
To reduce such congestion, the Chittagong Port Authority is pressurising the privately-owned ICDs to mobilise the containers faster by engaging more vehicles.
But the ICD owners said they are now jam-packed with empty containers, caused by a chain reaction of the ongoing congestion at the port for the last three months.
There were more than 64,000 TEUs of containers, including 44,057 TEUs of empty ones, lying in the 16 ICDs against the maximum capacity of 55,000 TEUs.
The empty containers are usually sent directly to the hook point at the port's jetty, from where those are loaded on to the vessel.
“But we have been failing to dispatch a good number of these containers as the port itself has remained overloaded with empty containers for a while now,” said Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association.
For instance, in June 6,716 TEUs of empty containers were sent back to the port, down from the previous three months' average of about 24,000 TEUs.
Besides, all the export goods from factories across the country are also sent to the ICDs for stuffing into the export containers; after customs procedures, they are sent to the port for shipment.
Meanwhile, importers are paying fines -- in the form of wharf rent and additional charges to the shipping agents -- for overstaying of containers at the port yards.
Importers can keep their containers at the port yards for four days free of charge, after which the CPA imposes wharf rent.
Two containers of raw materials imported by Probhati Artificial Leather Industries, a synthetic shoe manufacturing factory based in Dhaka, were unloaded at the port on August 4 but are yet to be sent to an ICD.
Golam Robbani, the clearing and forwarding agent, said the importer would have to pay Tk 10,000 per day as wharf rent to the CPA and the shipping agent respectively for overstaying.
Around 2,200 TEUs of empty containers of Orient Overseas Container Line have remained stuck in 15 ICDs.
The ICDs must be decongested immediately, not only for the sake of importers but also for decongesting the port, said Gias Uddin Chowdhury, general manger of Orient Overseas.
Upon request from importers and C&F agents, last month the CPA allowed them to take delivery of 37 types of import goods directly from the port for one month, said Akhtar Hossain, president of Chittagong C&F Agents Association.
The association has sought continuation of the arrangement and the CPA agreed too, but the Chittagong Customs House is yet to give its decision.