Port congestion irks businesses
Business leaders yesterday expressed resentment at the prevailing vessel congestion at the Chittagong port as it is hurting trade as well as the economy.
They called for immediate measures to purchase equipment, build new jetties and sort out the shortage of workforce at the Chittagong Customs House to improve the situation. They shared the views at a meeting organised by the Customs House in the port city.
They said international buyers are refusing to continue to trade with Bangladeshi garment manufacturers because of the delay in shipment.
The acute congestion at the port is pushing the garment sector towards life support from the intensive care unit, said Moinuddin Ahmed, acting president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Anjan Shekhar Das, a director of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said they usually get a month to export items.
“But if 15 to 20 days are wasted at the port how could we finish the production in the rest 10 days?” he asked. He alleged that they do not get proper service from the customs officials deployed in the off-docks. “Customs officers are not always available there. Sometimes we need to go to their residence to get the papers signed.” Although the Customs House clears the import documents within four to five hours, the port takes two days to deliver the consignment, said AKM Akhter Hossain, president of the Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association.
He blamed the delay in shipments on the shortage of equipment. Shahed Sarwar, vice chairman of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, said vessels have to wait 10 to 12 days for getting berths in the port jetties.
Many ships are also forced to sail out without taking export-bound containers as part of the authority's effort to ease the vessel congestion, Sarwar said.
M Khaled Iqbal, chairman of Chittagong Port Authority, said they are working hard to enhance the capacity of the port. He hoped the situation would improve within 10 days.
AFM Abdullah Khan, Chittagong Customs House commissioner, said they have already taken steps to provide people with the service round the clock.
If needed, the government would include a waiver in public procurement rules to ensure quick purchase of equipment, said Ashoke Madhab Roy, shipping secretary.
Md Nojibur Rahman, chairman of the National Board of Revenue, who moderated the meeting, said 94 new assistant revenue officers and nine assistant commissioners have already been appointed at the Customs House. The process to recruit 625 more assistant revenue officials is underway, he said.