There has been a sharp fall in delivery of imported goods from the Chittagong port in the last six days since the countrywide lockdown was imposed on April 14 as importers are not taking the deliveries timely.
Overall container occupancy at the port yards is still at a comfortable level, sans those dedicatedly used for storing import laden containers.
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But the port officials and users apprehend a possible container congestion if the deliveries do not gain pace in the coming days as the lockdown has been extended for one more week.
The port authority has already started knocking different business bodies to take steps for taking delivery of goods everyday of the week aiming at expediting the process.
As of yesterday morning, there were 35,138 TEUs (twenty feet equivalent units) of all types of containers lying at the port yards, which was around 72 per cent of the port's total capacity of storing 49,018 TEUs.
But concerns remain over the situation at the yards dedicated for storing import laden containers.
A total of 33,244 TEUs of containers were lying at these dedicated yards covering around 93 per cent of their capacity of 35,868 TEUs.
Overall, daily delivery from the port before the lockdown was over 5,000 TEUs on an average whereas it came down to only 3,100 TEUs per day in the last five days till yesterday morning.
The overall delivery is a total calculation of different types of deliveries. A good portion of import goods are taken away right from the port yards on being unstuffed from containers.
A portion of import containers carrying 37 types of goods as well as empty containers are taken out to 19 privately owned inland container depots (ICDs) from where the deliveries are made.
The direct delivery of goods from the yards also saw a sharp fall in the last five days.
It was possible to deliver goods of around 3,000 TEUs on April 13, the day before the lockdown was imposed. But the figure came down sharply to 1,200 TEUs on the following day.
Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) on Saturday in an urgent letter to the president of Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA) requested for taking steps for the speedy removal of around 4,800 TEUs of ICD-bound import laden and empty containers from the port.
In the letter, the CPA mentioned that some 1,469 TEUs of empty containers and 1,363 TEUs of import laden containers bound for the ICDs were lying at the port.
Moreover, some 1,927 TEUs of ICD-bound import containers were on board different vessels anchored at the port jetties.
These containers need to be removed within four days in order to keep the port's operational activities smooth and active, the letter stated.
The CPA also sent separate letters to eight private ICDs where these containers were bound for.
On Sunday the CPA sent separate letters to leaders of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
It requested to give directives to their members who were importers to fast take deliveries in order to avoid a possible container congestion and keep the vessels' turnaround time normal.
Syed Nazrul Islam, newly elected first vice president of the BGMEA, told The Daily Star that the deliveries from the port remained slow as the work schedules have been reduced in all related offices due to the lockdown and Ramadan.
Overall work usually slows in the early week of Ramadan but this time both office hours and manpower have been reduced for the Covid lockdown, he said.
Office hours and manpower in all the related offices like that of shipping agents, banks, customs house and others have been reduced delaying the activities related to release of consignments from the port, he informed.
But all the stakeholders including the port authority are giving much effort to bring pace, he said.
CPA Secretary Md Omar Faruk said experience from last year's severe congestion prompted them to take different preventive measures from the very beginning to expedite daily deliveries and as a result the overall occupancy at the port was still tolerable.
Sources said the port authority also sent a proposal to the shipping ministry to pursue the National Board of Revenue (NBR) to take step for taking all types of import containers to the private ICDs for delivery from there for an interim period.
Faruk said the ministry had sent a recommendation to the NBR in this regard.