Businesses fear vessel congestion in Chattogram port will get worse in the days to come as the delivery of cargoes would slow down during Eid vacation starting Sunday.
The country’s premier sea port managed to get rid of years-long container and vessel congestion in November last year by installing some equipment and taking some supervisory steps. The situation prevailed till April this year.
Container vessels had to wait only a day or two for getting berth during those five months. However, the congestion returned in May-June due to nonoperation of the port for a few days amid cyclone Fani and Eid-ul-Fitr vacation.
The port’s operational activities were a bit slow during incessant rain and foul weather in early July again, intensifying the congestion.
The number of container vessels waiting at the outer anchorage and their waiting time before getting berths have been gradually increasing for the last couple of months.
Currently it is taking on average 6 to 8 days for a container vessel to get permission of berthing in a port jetty after arriving at the outer anchorage.
It takes at least 4 to 5 days more for unloading the imports from the vessel and completing other formalities to get the cargoes delivered from the port.
Thus, an importer has to wait 10 to 13 days for receiving their goods from the port.
Till yesterday afternoon a total of 20 container vessels remained waiting at the outer anchorage. Three vessels -- Kota Azam, Thorswind and MCC Cebu -- arrived at the port on August 1 and those were scheduled to berth in 3 port jetties by yesterday evening, according to sources.
Garment is the most affected sector of such congestion as delays in receiving imports like garment accessories have been hampering production in many factories.
“It seems the problem is never-ending,” said Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s standing committee on port and shipping.
At least 8 to 10 days out of the total time required for production are being wasted due to delays in receiving accessories from the port, Chowdhury said.
Chowdhury, also the managing director of Chattogram-based Eastern Apparels, himself suffered a lot recently after failing to timely ship an export consignment of 1 lakh pieces of trousers to a New York-based buyer.
Production at his factory was partly halted for 12 days due to the delay in receiving accessories he imported from Hong Kong, he said.
He said he incurred a loss of around Tk 2 lakh as operating cost for each day during the halt.
However, Chowdhury somehow managed to convince the buyer and sent the export cargo on August 7 -- 12 days after the scheduled date.
Vessel operators are counting an additional maintenance cost of around $10,000 for each day of idle stay of a ship and they may also miss a trip in a month due to this delay.
Abdullah Jahir, general manager of a vessel operating firm PIL (Bangladesh) Ltd, said currently 10 out of total 18 jetties of the port can be allocated for container vessels.
He underscored the need for building more jetties in near future to avert such congestion.
In a meeting on August 6, port users urged Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) Director (traffic) Enamul Karim to request the government not to stop cargo carrying vehicles on Dhaka-Chattogram highway during Eid vacation.
CPA Secretary Md Omar Faruq said they decided to keep vessel operation and loading unloading activities normal since the afternoon on Eid day.
He said they would extend all-out support in transport of import and export cargoes to and from the private inland container depots during the vacation.
“But we alone cannot ease the congestion. All the stakeholders should come forward to prevent the congestion from getting worse.”