The four mobile container scanners donated by China to speed up the trade process have been lying idle for nearly two years now.
The disclosure comes at a time when grievances about the inefficiency of the trade process, particularly at the Chittagong Port, are growing louder by the day.
The law requires the inspection of every export and import container and the use of mobile scanners greatly speeds up the exercise.
The scanners were received by former National Board of Revenue chairman Nojibur Rahman from then Chinese ambassador at a programme in Dhaka on May 11, 2016. At the event, Rahman had announced that the scanners would be put to use within three months.
But the scanners were not assembled until the end of 2017: in Chittagong Port on December 9, in Benapole Land Port on December 19, in Mongla Custom House on December 20, and in Kamalapur Inland Container Depot on December 26.
Chittagong Customs House Commissioner AKM Nuruzzaman insisted that the newly-installed scanner was in use.
He said Nuctech, which imported the scanners in November 2015, was regularly operating the new scanner and an assistant revenue officer was overseeing its use.
But Nuctech's manager, Apelo Barua, said they had offered to operate the scanners free of cost for the first three months, after which there would be a fee.
“Since no contract has been signed yet, we are not operating any of the four scanners,” Barua said, adding that only one container was scanned during the inauguration and none after that.
NBR Member (Customs Policy) Lotfur Rahman too said the four scanners could not be made operational due to the absence of a contract with Nuctech.
The issue will be placed before the new NBR chairman soon, he added.
Revenue officers AK Azad and Gholam Murshaza of Mongla and Benapole customs houses respectively said they too were waiting for the scanners to come to use. The same was stated by sources at Kamalapur.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industry, expressed his concern over the delay.
“We have been demanding scanners in each of Chittagong port's 12 gates. A lot of time is wasted in the process for release of containers,” he added.
The Chittagong Port alone saw the movement of 25 lakh containers through it in 2017.