We are extremely worried to learn that various types of imported hazardous cargo, including chemical and other inflammable goods, have been kept at the Chattogram port for years, posing serious risks of fires and other deadly accidents. According to the Chattogram Port Authority, these chemical and hazardous goods, imported between 1992 and 2019, are lying around at the designated sheds of the port as those were not delivered or claimed by any importer. What is also worrying is that the containers in which these goods were brought could not be traced. Although the goods should have been auctioned off or destroyed by the customs authorities long ago, no significant steps have been taken over the years to remove them. What this means is that the country's main seaport is at risk of a deadly explosion. Reportedly, a fire broke out at shed no. 3 of the port on July 15 during which there was a small explosion.
According to our report, the P-shed of the port where the hazardous goods are kept lacks modern management for storing such goods for a long time. The current system through which these goods are delivered or auctioned off has serious limitations. In many cases, goods are not delivered or claimed by the importers within the stipulated time. And when it comes to auctioning off the unclaimed goods, a shortage of manpower and failure to provide the correct documents stand in the way of the customs authorities. In the absence of proper management, the port is used as a warehouse of storing such hazardous products.
These problems need to be solved immediately if we do not want to experience any deadly explosion like that in Beirut, Lebanon, last week. Negligence or delay on the part of the port authorities and the customs department in removing or auctioning off the goods are unacceptable.
It is good to learn that the Chattogram Port Authority has formed a committee to assess the current condition of hazardous cargoes in the port. We hope that it will perform its duty properly—make a list of chemical and hazardous goods stored at the P-shed, determine the period of storage, make a list of goods that need to be auctioned off or destroyed immediately, look at the safety and security arrangements at the P-shed and recommend necessary measures, etc. The committee should also look into the laws and regulations of handling such goods and suggest any possible changes to make them effective. Of course, any assessment or recommendation will only be useful if it is put into practice by the relevant authorities.