Chattogram Port: Tk 10,000cr goods left abandoned
Goods worth around Tk 10,000 crore have been left abandoned by importers at the Chattogram Port for the past five and half years, depriving customs of revenue and leading to a space crisis.
Had importers taken timely deliveries of their consignments, the customs could have earned Tk 7,000 crore in taxes.
Md Akbar Hossain, additional commissioner of Chattogram Custom House (CCH), told The Daily Star that they were not getting any revenue against the consignments as those had been abandoned.
Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) Secretary Md Omar Faruq said, “A huge space inside the port remains occupied by these containers, disrupting smooth operation. The port is also losing revenue since the space occupied by these containers cannot be rented out.”
The port has the capacity to house 48,000 TEUs (Twenty Equivalent Unit) of containers, of which 7,000 has been occupied by the unclaimed containers for the past few years.
Officials concerned identified the 5,277 consignments of undelivered goods worth Tk 9,989 crore after analysing the server data earlier this month, sources said.
The undelivered goods in the 7,000 containers also mean its respective shipping agents are incurring losses as they no longer get rent for the containers from the importers, sources said.
Shahed Sarwar, deputy managing director of K-Line Bangladesh Limited, a shipping agent, said apart from the loss in rent, the agents also had to bear the cost of dumping perishable goods and pay electricity bills to the port authority for the refrigerated containers.
Asked why the deliveries were not taken, customs officials and importers cited a number of reasons, including a fall in the prices of goods in the local market, failure to submit original documents in support of the shipment, failure to get clearance permit reports and importers’ refusal to pay fines for anomalies.
Around 1,000 importers have not taken delivery of their goods. The Daily Star, however, could not reach them for comments.
According to data collected from the National Board of Revenue and CCH, more than a hundred types of goods including cosmetics, chemicals, plastics, automobiles, electronic goods, leather goods, construction materials, tiles and ceramics are among the unreleased goods.
The customs law states that importers have to take delivery of goods within 30 days of those reaching the port; defaulting on the timeline results in the customs authority starting the procedures to auction the goods.
An auction for the goods, however, has not taken place in the past five years.
NO ACTION, NO AUCTION
Failure to hold a timely auction for the goods has also resulted in the loss of further revenues.
Akbar Hossain, the CCH additional commissioner, said, “We are working to know the present condition of those goods and the reason behind delay in the auction process.”
Sixteen revenue officials had been assigned to take inventory of goods and issue letters of an auction to the importers once the inventory is completed.
According to customs officials, the auction process was delayed due to shortage of manpower and equipment. Some importers or auctioneers also go to court which leads to further delay.
The CPA, shipping agents and different business bodies sent separate letters to the Customs and NBR several times, requesting to take necessary measures for holding auctions of undelivered consignments regularly, sources said.
Shahed Sarwar, also a director of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAA), said, “We can neither use those containers nor send those back to the owner companies abroad.”
Complicating matters is the limited number of bidders who take part in the auctions. They often collude to offer a lower price than the reserved value fixed by the authority.
As per the rule, the goods in question would be auctioned off at a reserved value of around Tk 17,000 crore. The reserved value would be set according to the total value of the goods and the total duties that are levied on it.
Of the auction value, 60 percent would go to customs, of which 20 percent would go to the port as rent of space.
Apart from that, the shipping agents get back the containers to rent them again.
The auction department, however, often fails to sell goods at reserved value on the first auction and then it needs to hold another auction.
Because of the delay, many perishable goods spoil. For instance, in the last two years, 239 containers of imported goods worth Tk 50 crore had been disposed of since the goods perished by the time.
Port users said if the auctions could have been arranged in due time, such wastage and incidents of goods going missing could be averted.
Altaf Hossain Bachchu, general secretary of the Chattogram Customs Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) Agents Association, said, “The unreleased consignments should be put up for auction regularly to save those goods from being wasted.”
Terming the auction procedure lengthy, Bachchu said the process should be made simpler.
In terms of a solution, customs took an initiative to launch an e-tender programme to speed up the auction procedure in 2015, but it is yet to be implemented.
If this was implemented, it would make the auction easier and attract participation of more bidders which might help reduce the number of undelivered containers, opined customs officials.
According to the data from customs auction department, the customs authorities through auctions sold imported goods worth Tk 43 crore in fiscal 2016-17, Tk 48 crore in 2017-18, and Tk 42 crore in 2018-19.