Unclaimed goods weigh on customs houses
Over 32.5 lakh tonnes of imported goods worth Tk 9,509 crore have been lying unclaimed for months, harming trading activities at 17 sea and land customs houses and stations across the country.
Over 100 types of goods, including commodities, food, cosmetics, chemicals, plastic products, electronics, leather goods and construction materials, were imported through 16,015 consignments from July last year to mid October this year, according to the National Board of Revenue data.
Neither the importers took delivery nor did the customs authorities auction off the goods, although the official rule is to sell the goods if they are not taken away within a month of arrival.
The goods have started degrading in quality and are occupying valuable space and obstructing port activities, port users said.
The government is losing revenue for the abandoned goods, said Md Lutfor Rahman, member, customs policy of NBR.
He said they sent letters to the commissioners of the 17 customs houses and stations and wanted to know about the condition of the goods and the reason behind the delay in holding auctions.
“We directed all customs stations across the country to arrange auctions regularly to ensure that such goods do not go to waste or get stolen,” said Lutfor.
Once the condition is assessed, the goods need to be up for auction in no time, he added.
Earlier, Chittagong Port Authority, shipping agents and different business bodies sent separate letters to the Chittagong customs station and NBR several times with the request to start the process for auctions soon.
“The importers can keep our containers for the first four days for free in the port,” said Shahed Sarwar, director of Bangladesh Shipping Agents' Association.
Afterwards, demurrage has to be paid for additional days, he said, adding that they do not get any demurrage after the free period. Moreover, they have to pay electricity bills of refrigerated containers.
“With the goods not being auctioned off on time, we can neither use the containers for other consignments nor send those back to the owning companies abroad. It is tarnishing our country's image,” said Sarwar.
Now container owners do not want to provide services to Bangladeshis and they charge higher than those of other countries, said Sarwar, who is also the executive director of K-Line Bangladesh Ltd.
He said at least 50 of their containers, including 12 refrigerated ones, had remained stuck at Chittagong port for three to 11 months.
The electricity bills for the refrigerated containers so far stand at $33,600 and the importers have not paid a single penny, he said.
Chittagong Customs House says there were a number of reasons for the importers to leave their goods unclaimed.
Low local prices compared to the import cost, absence of proper documents and unwillingness to pay demurrages may cause the consignments to remain unclaimed.
Expressing concern over the matter, Chittagong Customs House Commissioner AKM Nuruzzaman admitted that such goods were piling up. He assured of holding auctions regularly to clear the space.