Amend coastal shipping deal with India
Local seagoing container shippers have urged both the Bangladeshi and Indian governments to allow them to carry goods of third countries for the sake of saving time and money and facilitating the industry to thrive.
Under the current agreement on coastal shipping signed between Bangladesh and India last year, the local (both Bangladeshi and Indian) vessels are allowed to carry the goods only of the two countries in the recognised ports or port of calls.
Since the local vessels cannot carry a third country's goods, the international main line operators (MLOs) -- like Maersk, Hyundai and Hapag-Lloyd -- that carry goods from the US, the EU and other countries do not unload the Bangladesh-bound goods at the Indian ports.
Rather, the MLOs take the Bangladesh-bound goods to other ports like Singapore, Colombo or Kelang, where they are stacked in the terminals for at least a month before they are carried to Bangladesh in small vessels.
It takes at least a week for the goods to arrive at the Chittagong or Mongla ports from abroad, said Shaikh Mahfuz Hamid, managing director of Gulf Orient Seaways, a local container shipping line operator.
So in total, it takes about 45 days to carry those goods to Bangladesh.
Furthermore, the Chittagong port, the country's main port, is overloaded now, meaning there is a delay in unloading the consignment.
“If our local container ships are allowed to carry third country goods from three Indian ports of Visakhapatnam, Krishnapatnam and Haldia, we can save at least 45 days in each consignment,” said Hamid, also the chairman of the Coastal Ship Owners Association of Bangladesh.
Not only that, the shippers could have earned $12.5 million as fares and saved $37.5 million a year, as it takes only three days to carry the goods from the three ports of India to Chittagong or the Pangaon port in Dhaka, he said.
Subsequently, the shippers demanded amendment to some clauses in the coastal shipping agreement in the upcoming secretary-level meeting of shipping ministries, scheduled for October 24-26 in New Delhi. Shipping Secretary Md Abdus Samad said the issue would be discussed at the meeting.
“We will also have to discuss the capacities and other issues of both Chittagong and Pangaon ports before taking such decision,” he told The Daily Star on Thursday.
If the initiative can reduce the lead time, it is better for everyone, said Siddiqur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, whose members are major user of port facilities in Bangladesh.