Container handlers hike charges, irking businesses
Private inland container depots (ICDs) have raised five types of operational charges, amounting to around Tk 145 crore in additional costs if last fiscal year's trade volumes are taken into account.
The change in handling costs of import and export containers comes hot on the heels of a 23 per cent increase of the price of diesel.
Following a virtual meeting of members of Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (Bicda) on Tuesday evening, the association issued a circular saying the new rates would have a retrospective effect from November 4.
Stakeholders, including exporters, mainly readymade garment exporters, importers, freight forwarders and shipping lines, termed the Bicda decision "illogical and one sided" and said it contradicted an ICD policy.
The change will not affect import and export containers passing directly through the Chattogram port.
However, almost 90 per cent of exports are currently loaded into containers at the 19 private ICDs, known as off-docks, located in and around the port city before being shipped.
Moreover, 21 per cent of import-laden containers are sent from the port to these ICDs where the goods are unloaded for delivery to the consignees.
Besides, once emptied of imports at the port, containers are sent to the ICDs for temporary storage.
According to the Bicda circular, part of the changes in charges came to a package involving handling import containers, starting from the pickup at the port to loading onto consignees' trucks.
That for a 20-foot container went up from Tk 7,930 to Tk 9,754 while for a 40-foot container from Tk 9,150 to Tk 11,255.
On an average, it has been an increase of Tk 1,964.
Last fiscal year, the 19 ICDs handled 2,82,733 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of import-laden containers.
Had it been last year, importers would have had to bear an additional Tk 55 crore in costs.
As for the package for handling export-laden containers, the 20-foot ones saw a rise from Tk 4,140 to Tk 5,092 and 40-foot ones from Tk 5,520 to Tk 6,790.
Moreover, the ICDs also raised a verified gross mass charge, meaning that for weighing an export-laden container, by Tk 265. Thus, the average charge has been raised by Tk 1,376.
Taking into consideration the fact that the ICDs handled 6,5600 TEUs of export-laden containers last fiscal year, exporters would have had to bear an additional Tk 90 crore.
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association First Vice President Syed Nazrul Islam said such a sudden decision was in no way acceptable.
A rising number of orders had provided an opportunity for the garment sector to make a rebound from the pandemic-induced losses but such a hike would ruin it, he opined.
BICDA Secretary Md Ruhul Amin Sikder said the rise was to adjust with additional fuel costs of vehicular and equipment operations.
Syed M Tanvir, managing director of leading denim exporting firm Pacific Jeans, said exports would be badly affected by this increase.
"Although our shipping term is FOB (where buyer pays the shipping cost), customers will reduce price offers…therefore we will lose competitiveness," he said.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Mahbubul Alam said such decisions should be taken through discussions with all stakeholders.
Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association Vice President Khairul Alam Sujan said the Bicda decision contradicted the ICD policy, which says changes in charges need to be fixed by a tariff committee of the shipping ministry comprising all stake holders.