Lack of locomotives idles ICD containers
The number of locomotives to carry containers from Chittagong to Dhaka has declined, leaving the inland container depot (ICD) in Kamalapur with little work.
The number of containers stuck at Chittagong port stood at 1,671, five times the normal level, said customs agents.
“It is the result of a reduction in the number of cargo train engines to carry ICD-bound containers,” said Sheikh Md Farid, president of Dhaka Customs Agents Association (DCAA).
Six organisations, including DCAA, have been agitating for days, demanding an end to the deadlock.
Such stalemate in activities at the ICD returns more than six months after traders suffered similar problems due to a fall in the flow of containers from Chittagong port.
Customs agents said the situation improved early this year after Bangladesh Railway allocated five engines to transport ICD containers from Chittagong.
But Bangladesh Railway withdrew two locomotives from carrying ICD containers in March. At present, only three engines, which are also accused of being slow, are transporting containers to the Kamalapur ICD.
The customs agents said the Kamalapur ICD records the arrival and departure of over 120 TEUS (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containers normally.
But the latest transportation problem has not only brought down the Kamalapur-bound container carriage below 100 TEUS but also delayed the arrival of cargo.
“Now, it takes a container 25-30 days to arrive at the ICD from Chittagong,” said Farid. “Importers and exporters are incurring losses due to shipment delays."
Farid said some importers are shifting to other ports due to delays in receiving their goods.
Md Motaher Uddin, deputy traffic manager of the Kamalapur ICD, admitted that the flow of containers dropped. “We communicated with the railway authorities to take measures to solve the problem. I hope the situation will improve in 15 days.”
“There is a shortage of engines in operation. We will provide five engines to carry containers whenever the engines become available,” said Belayet Hossain, director general of Bangladesh Railway.
Of 138 locomotives of Bangladesh Railway's eastern zone, only 86 are available for operations.
The remaining engines are in workshops for maintenance. Officials said the eastern zone requires a minimum of 107 engines to handle passenger and goods trains.