Fresh container congestion has hit the Chittagong port because of the transport crisis caused by the unannounced strike in response to the protest of the students demanding safe roads.
As a result, both the delivery of import containers and its transfer to the private inland container depots (ICDs) was disrupted earlier this week.
“The transport crisis has created the congestion, which is now hampering handling of containers at the port yards,” Ahsanul Hoque Chowdhury, chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, told The Daily Star.
Port users feared it could delay the berthing of the container vessels now waiting at the outer anchorage. Due to the congestion, the number of import-laden containers soared to 38,159 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) till Wednesday, exceeding the port's capacity of 37,620 TEUs.
The Chittagong Port Authority will sit with users today to discuss how they can tackle the latest congestion.
Thousands of students took to the streets protesting the killing of two students in Dhaka on July 29. They were on the streets for a week demanding safe roads. The situation started worsening after a section of transport workers cut back on running goods-carrying vehicles.
Usually 3,000 to 4,000 vehicles enter the port yards every day for taking import containers. But except a few that entered the port on Sunday evening, the delivery activities came to a complete halt.
Only 361 TEUs of containers could be delivered in the 24 hours to 8am Monday, far lower than 3,739 TEUs delivered during the same period a day ago.
The port sends a good portion of import containers to the private ICDs from where importers take the delivery of their goods. But because of the shortage of vehicles, the movement of the containers to the private ICDs was disrupted, adding to the congestion at the port.
As of yesterday, the number of private ICD-bound containers lying at the port yards rose to 7,100 TEUs whereas the port has no designated space to store them.
While talking to reporters at his office, Moinuddin Ahmed Mintu, first vice-president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association, expressed deep concern over missing the shipment of a good number of export containers due to the strike.
He said as the cargoes would miss their scheduled mother vessels at Singapore or Colombo ports, the buyers could now demand discounted rates or the exporters would have to go for costlier air shipments.
Chowdhury of the BSAA said the situation is gradually improving.