Less than a week ago, we wrote an editorial on how a syndicate of clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents in collusion with importers, and possibly port officials, were able to clear some 4,000 consignments using forged documents over a two-year period. Yesterday, we published a report that said that some 295 consignments of goods had disappeared from a restricted area of the Chattogram port—which is part of the more than 5,584 unreleased shipments that arrived at the port over the period 2016-2018. We are told that some 1,000 out of the 5,584 consignments cannot be traced.
One question that remains unanswered is why port authorities do not auction off the consignments within the stipulated period. The rulebook says that importers can keep consignments for 15 days at the port under the supervision of the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA). Upon failure to collect any consignment, the CPA is supposed to give the importer an extension of another 15 days, and after that these goods are to be auctioned off. We are, however, seeing the build-up of containers and consignments stretching back to two years. Second, how can consignments go missing from a restricted area? We are told that this part of the restricted area did not have CCTV coverage, which again is a failure of the CPA and needs to be investigated.
As we had pointed out earlier, the Chattogram port is our biggest point of entry for goods and the continued lack of oversight by port authorities opens up questions of security. The possibility of dangerous goods entering the country through the port is now very much possible, given our failure to tackle these recurring incidents of consignments going missing. This is a matter that needs to be dealt with on a priority basis by the CPA and law enforcers, who must bust the gang responsible and also plug the loss of revenue that the national exchequer should be getting but isn't.