New direct shipping service in the offing
Another direct container shipping service between Chattogram and two European ports is going to be introduced next month while initiatives are underway for launching direct services connecting a few more destinations in the European Union (EU).
Earlier in February, an Italian shipping company launched direct services between Chattogram and Italy, opening the door for transport of the country's export cargo directly to any destination in the EU avoiding transhipment ports.
Switzerland-based maritime logistics service provider Commodity Supplies AG has taken the initiative to launch the service.
Three of its chartered vessels will operate from Barcelona in Spain to Chattogram to the largest European Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Reliance Shipping and Logistics, the firm's Bangladeshi agent, applied to the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) chairman on Sunday to grant permission for running the direct liner shipping using ships MV Spica, MV Andromeda J and MV Music.
Reliance Shipping Chairman Mohammed Rashed hoped they would get the CPA's permission soon.
Once the permission is granted, they have a plan to launch the service in the third week of May, when one of the three ships will start from Barcelona for Chattogram, he said.
The country has long been suffering from a lack of direct shipping services to Europe, its biggest export destination, mainly due to limited access of large ships at Chattogram port.
Currently, exports-laden containers are first transported on small feeder vessels to transhipment ports, including the Port of Colombo, Port of Singapore, Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Port Klang of Malaysia and some others in China.
The containers are then loaded onto bigger mother vessels to reach destinations in Europe, the US and Africa.
At present, the transhipment ports, particularly the Port of Colombo, are facing prolonged vessel congestion. It takes around 40 days to reach the country's export cargoes to destinations in the EU.
Rashed said once the new service is available, it would be possible to send export cargoes to Barcelona in 20 days to 22 days.
CPA Chairman M Shahjahan told The Daily Star that direct shipping services to destinations in the EU would always be welcomed and prioritised.
He said the permission would now be provided through official procedures.
Shahjahan also informed that within the next few months there would be more ships sailing directly from Chattogram to Europe and other destinations as more countries have already expressed keen interest in this regard.
Sources said the Port of Leixões of Portugal was in the process of signing a memorandum of understanding with the CPA to enable direct shipping services while Slovakia had conveyed their interest.
Confirming it, the CPA chairman said the United Arab Emirates had also shown interest in this regard.
He hoped that these engagements would reduce export lead time and increase the country's export orders.