The festivals of Eid-ul-Adha and Eid-ul-Fitr spell celebration for most in Bangladesh. Garment exporters, however, are an apprehensive lot. It’s not only the uncertainty over workers’ turnaround that emerges as a worrying factor, the very fact if shipments would reach the overseas clients on time is another cause to give them sleepless nights! And the famed Chittagong Port has a lot to do with it.
Considered the gateway to country’s import-export (handling around 90 per cent of international trade), Chittagong Port is prone to container congestion due to Eid holidays every year. This year too, it wasn’t an exception.
As per reports, even though the port remained open during the holidays, delivery of containers took a hit due to various reasons. The first to blame was the traffic disruption on the all-important Dhaka-Chittagong highway, which connects the manufacturing hub of Dhaka with Chittagong. More than 5,000 trucks and covered vans were reportedly stopped by the Government for three days before and after Eid to ensure hassle-free journey of home-bound people going to villages for Eid celebrations.
The second reason has been that of shortage of clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents and loaders as many went home to celebrate the festival. As a result, at least 40 ships were forced to wait at the outer anchorage besides many other ships had to lay anchor at all the jetties of the port, waiting for things to return to normalcy.
“There are around 41,000 TEU containers at the port yards as the capacity of port yards is higher. Container congestion has been created at the port due to slow delivery,” maintained Secretary of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) Mohammed Omar Faruk speaking to the media, who added that C&F agents and importers were not eager to take delivery during the holidays.
“The Chittagong Port used to handle a total of 8,000 TEU containers every day. Presently, it handles only 4,000 TEU containers, resulting in container congestion,” Faruk underlined.
It may be mentioned here that in 2018, the scene at the Chittagong Port was somewhat similar. It had to weather container congestion for almost a week, mainly because of slow delivery of import containers and transportation of containers to private inland container depots (ICDs).
The movement of the containers to the ICDs faced disruption after the Road, Transport and Highways Division reportedly banned trucks, covered vans and lorries from plying on the roads three days before Eid.
This time around, concerned authorities took some steps to avoid the situation. To ensure reduced container congestion in the seaport and jetties, the CPA decided on ensuring delivery of FCL containers on the day of berthing, introducing of all systems and equipment Hot Service System during delivery, ensuring the presence of all shift staff and officials before starting new shift. The CPA also formed a 16-member committee comprising its officials and stakeholders to gear up the operational activities.
However, despite the preparations, Chittagong Port had to bear the brunt of traffic congestion once again.