More than 6,000 cars are stranded at ports amid importers' reluctance to take delivery of the vehicles fearing vandalism on way to their final destinations.
“Most of us are afraid of attacks on the highway for the political unrest. That's why, taking delivery of cars from ports have become slow,” said Habib Ullah Dawn, president of Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association (Barvida).
Some of the imported vehicles came under attack at the beginning of the political turmoil, after which importers became cagey about taking the cars out of the ports, Dawn said.
Of the amount, 4,400 are stuck at Mongla port, the seaport that mainly handles reconditioned cars imported from Japan, while the rest are in Chittagong port, according to importers.
Each day, car importers have to pay a total of Tk 27 lakh as overstaying fine to port authorities, Dawn said.
“We would much rather pay the fines than see our cars getting torched. We are suffering for no fault of ours,” said the Barvida president.
Hundreds of cars were parked at the yards of Mongla port yesterday. Port officials said the rate of releasing the cars by importers has declined since the beginning of the countrywide blockade, ongoing since January 6.
The number of cars released by importers stood at 475 in January, down 36 percent from the previous month.
Subsequently, the number of cars stuck at the port rose to 4,400 from nearly 3,900 at the beginning of January, according to port data.
Importers now usually take delivery of their cars on weekends, which have remained more or less violence-free so far, the officials said.
Apart from forcing importers to count overstaying fees, the unrest has also taken toll on the sales of cars, Dawn said.
“Our sales have nosedived for the turmoil. We cannot keep our showrooms open for the risk of attacks,” he said, adding that reconditioned car sellers incur losses of Tk 30 crore a day for the unrest.
“We enjoyed wonderful sales last year -- the year 2015 began with doom.” Reconditioned vehicle dealers sold 16,400 units of cars in 2014, up 69 percent year-on-year, according to the Barvida president.
“Our sales have plummeted. People do not want to buy cars when the country is going through such turbulence,” said Abdul Haque, managing director of Haq's Bay, one of the leading reconditioned car dealers.
On the one hand, customers for cars have come down sharply, and on the other, there is safety concern for vehicles on roads.
The twin factors have made importers averse to releasing cars from ports, he added.