Gear­ing up to ease con­ges­tion

The Chit­tagong Port Au­thor­ity along with the Cus­toms and off-dock work­ers are put­ting in a con­certed ef­fort to ease out move­ment of cargo

Maritime Gateway - - Contents - By Omer Ahmed Sid­diqui

The Chit­tagong Port Au­thor­ity along with the Cus­toms and off-dock work­ers are put­ting in a con­certed ef­fort to ease out move­ment of cargo.

All the banks at Chit­tagong Port have been di­rected to op­er­ate 24/7 along with the port au­thor­ity and Cus­toms; pri­vate ICDS that do not de­liver quick and ef­fi­cient ser­vices stand to lose their li­cense; the Bangladesh Land Port Au­thor­ity (MLPA) has been in­structed to con­struct an al­ter­na­tive road for trans­porta­tion of goods, while the port op­er­ates 24/7 to evac­u­ate cargo; land­lord port model will be in­tro­duced to re­duce the port au­thor­ity’s in­volve­ment in op­er­a­tions; the off-dock work­ers and the port au­thor­ity will pro­cure more equip­ment to fa­cil­i­tate swift move­ment of cargo. The ICDS will im­pose CFS cut-off time for ex­porters for send­ing ex­port cargo so that the ICDS can main­tain cut-off time for send­ing ex­port laden con­tain­ers to the Chit­tagong Port. The ICDS will send ex­port laden con­tain­ers to the port be­tween berthing of ves­sel and six hours be­fore their sail­ing. The ICDS will also try to take out im­port laden con­tain­ers of their des­ig­nated 37 items at the short­est pos­si­ble time. Bids have been in­vited for erect­ing a spe­cialised ter­mi­nal to han­dle bulk car­goes at the port.

Chit­tagong Cus­toms House has jumped into ac­tion dis­patch­ing 94 as­sis­tant rev­enue of­fi­cers and nine as­sis­tant com­mis­sion­ers for sup­port­ing the exim op­er­a­tions 24/7. The CPA will pro­vide an ex­port yard of at least 1000 teus at the CCT (Chit­tagong Con­tainer Ter­mi­nal) and at NCT (New Moor­ing Con­tainer Ter­mi­nal) within a short time and will trans­fer 4,200 teus of con­tain­ers meant for auc­tion to the newly-built silo yard. It is to be noted that nei­ther CCT nor NCT has any ex­port yard at present for ex­port con­tain­ers to fa­cil­i­tate the ICDS to go di­rectly to the ves­sels' hook point to load ex­port con­tain­ers onto ves­sels.

CPA Chair­man has asked the off-docks op­er­a­tors to in­stall scan­ners at their yards to pre­vent con­tra­band items mov­ing through the port. BICDA chair­man Nu­rul Qayyum Khan said the im­port con­tain­ers should be scanned im­me­di­ately af­ter ar­rival at the port.

The port au­thor­ity has im­posed strict lim­its on the du­ra­tion for which a ship may re­main in the port and this is forc­ing ves­sels to set sail even if cer­tain booked con­tain­ers have not been loaded. The un­fin­ished load­ing can be com­pleted at the outer chan­nel. As per the new timetable, a gear­less con­tainer ves­sel is al­lowed to berth for 48 hours, smaller geared ves­sels with cranes on­board can berth for 60 hours and the largest geared ves­sels are al­lot­ted 72 hours at the port. The port au­thor­ity has also man­dated that con­tain­ers should ar­rive in the ter­mi­nal yard six hours be­fore the ves­sels de­par­ture.

These are some of the mea­sures be­ing im­ple­mented to ease the Chit­tagong Port which is al­most chocked with con­ges­tion. The port Chair­man has placed a req­ui­si­tion for declar­ing the port as a thrust sec­tor, ex­emp­tion it from pay­ing non-tax rev­enue, re­form­ing cus­toms scan­ning sys­tem for quick de­liv­ery, re­duc­ing phys­i­cal in­spec­tion of goods, more off-dock in pri­vate sec­tor, and re­view of tar­iff.

Chit­tagong Port han­dles 90 per cent of in­ter­na­tional cargo in Bangladesh and the vol­umes at the port have

been steadily grow­ing only to over­stress the ex­ist­ing in­fra­struc­ture that was kept wait­ing for an up­grade for al­most a decade now. The prob­lem of cargo con­ges­tion at Chit­tagong Port is in­creas­ing day by day and the rea­sons are many – The port has 21 RTG cranes against the de­mand for 56, there are only seven strad­dle car­ri­ers whereas the port needs at least 15, most of the jet­ties have a shal­low draft, there is a short­age of lighter ves­sels to trans­port con­tain­ers from ocean-go­ing ves­sels that must off­load at outer an­chor­age as the draft does not al­low for these to berth at the port, there is also a lack of enough berths for the ves­sels to dock. These short­com­ings have put the port in a sit­u­a­tion that has built up a queue of ves­sels wait­ing to get berth.

Six of the thir­teen jet­ties in the port have a depth rang­ing be­tween 6-7 me­tres, which pre­vent larger ships from berthing at them di­rectly. Only two jet­ties have deep draft where larger ships come for lighter­age be­fore mov­ing to other jet­ties. This in­creases the cost for ship­pers in ad­di­tion to the de­lay as they have to pay two dif­fer­ent groups of work­ers be­fore the cargo is com­pletely un­loaded.

Today, con­tainer ships have to wait at the outer an­chor­age for around 6-12 days while the wait­ing time for bulk car­ri­ers is around 20 days or more. The con­ges­tion has driven up ship’s av­er­age time in the port by 43 per cent to 84.3 hours be­tween Jan­uary and June. The con­ges­tion be­gan to mount in April when av­er­age time in the port was 62.7 hours

Adding to the woes of ship­ping lines are the steep de­mur­rage for goods to be un­loaded af­ter berthing at docks. This has prompted ship­ping lin­ers ply­ing the Sin­ga­pore-chit­tagong route to raise price per con­tainer by $150 be­cause of the con­ges­tion. These ad­ver­saries have forced ship­ping lines to cut down the calls on this route to one ship­ment (as op­posed to two ear­lier) per month.

These prob­lems have not cropped up over night at the port. Lack of in­fra­struc­ture has been ac­cru­ing over the years. The num­ber of jet­ties has re­mained the same since 2007, while im­port vol­ume has risen from 1 mil­lion to 2.4 mil­lion con­tain­ers as of the last fis­cal year. Port in­fra­struc­ture has sim­ply not grown to han­dle this ex­tra vol­ume. To make things worse, the two gantry cranes which were dam­aged fol­low­ing an ac­ci­dent on June 25 has sub­stan­tially dis­rupted the con­tainer han­dling op­er­a­tions of the port.

Ac­cord­ing to the im­porters, on an av­er­age 15 con­tainer ves­sels now have to wait ev­ery day at the outer an­chor­age for get­ting sched­ule of berthing at the jet­ties. “The gear­less ves­sels now have to wait for a max­i­mum of five days while the geared ves­sels (with con­tainer han­dling equip­ment like cranes on board) have to wait for a max­i­mum of four days at the outer an­chor­age. The or­di­nary ves­sels have to wait for a max­i­mum of two days,” re­vealed Rear Ad­mi­ral M Khaled Iqbal, Chair­man, CPA. The av­er­age stay time for a con­tainer ves­sel for get­ting sched­ule of berthing in the jet­ties is sup­posed be around one or two days un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances.

The con­ges­tion at the port has had a cas­cad­ing ef­fect trans­lat­ing into higher end prices for all goods be­ing im­ported. The back­log in un­load­ing these goods (count­ing de­mur­rage) means that the mar­ket price of im­ported prod­ucts is ris­ing. The im­pact on ex­ports is also ap­par­ent with ex­ports growth slumped to 3.67 per cent in the first 11 months of 2016-17.

Exim has suf­fered a lot in the last few months due to con­ges­tion of con­tain­ers and ves­sels, even lead­ing to can­cel­la­tion of ex­port or­ders by the in­ter­na­tional buy­ers of ready­made gar­ments. The busi­ness­men will have to count an ad­di­tional amount of Tk 80 crore per month if $100 is im­posed on each con­tainer on the pre­text of ad­di­tional sur­charge. The sit­u­a­tion that has built up at the Chit­tagong Port is surely a wakeup call to all the neigh­bour­ing ports in South Asia to take a re­al­ity check of their ser­vices and in­fra­struc­ture.

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