EXPORT BACKLOG IN ICDs Colombo-bound ships to get priority in berthing
Posted on July 12th, 2021

Dwaipayan Barua Courtesy The Daily Star

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) yesterday took some decisions, including prioritising berthing for Colombo-bound feeder vessels, aiming at clearing out exports piling up at private inland container depots (ICD).

It will also give priority berthing to feeder vessels carrying export-laden containers.

It also decided to permit two feeder operators to ply three new feeder vessels on the Chattogram-Colombo route.

The CPA proposed that the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) should convince their international buyers to not nominate a few selective shipping companies for carrying their export cargoes.

They should rather nominate more shipping companies to avoid a monopoly situation, they said.

It also proposed that Bangladesh’s ambassador to Sri Lanka could talk to authorities there for taking steps so that export containers can get speedy access to mother vessels from the Colombo port.

The decisions came at a meeting between the CPA and stakeholders, including representatives of foreign shipping companies or main-line operators (MLOs) and freight forwarders.

CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan chaired the meeting at the CPA conference room.

As of yesterday, 15,533 twenty-feet equivalent units (TEUs) of export-laden containers were waiting at 17 ICDs to be shifted to the Chattogram port for shipment, according to the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (Bicda).

Shipment of these export containers are getting delayed due to a global shortage of empty containers and space shortages in mother vessels from transhipment ports.

A good number of these export containers are designated to be transported through Colombo.

The CPA in the meeting also decided to allocate more berths for container vessels as well as to immediately shift a portion of empty containers, not useable to carry export cargoes, from the ICDs to the port for forced shipments aiming at creating space in the ICDs for storing more export-laden containers.

In the meeting, CPA Director (Traffic) Enamul Karim said currently 5,326 TEUs of export-laden containers, a major portion of the stockpiled export containers in the ICDs, were owned by one shipping company, Maersk Line, said sources that attended the meeting.

A representative of Maersk Line Bangladesh at the meeting said 75 per cent of their export-laden containers were sent via transhipment to the port of Colombo while the rest through Singapore and Tanjung Pelepas.

These export-laden containers cannot be shipped timely as the feeder vessels are facing delays in transporting those to the transhipment ports due to acute vessel congestion there, he informed the meeting.

The CPA chairman in the meeting said they very often allocate 11 berths instead of the existing 10 for container vessels and would also consider allocating an additional berth if required.

Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) Deputy General Manager Ajmir Hossain Chowdhury mentioned that they had earlier applied for the CPA’s permission for operating two more feeder vessels on the Chattogram-Colombo route in addition to its current five.

Chowdhury said the CPA chairman verbally assured approving their application. 

The CPA chairman urged the MLOs to implement a common carrier agreement (CCA) with other feeder vessel operators not nominated to carry their export-laden containers so that export shipments can be made quicker.

He also requested the MLOs to implement a direct interchange (DI) with each other so that alternative MLOs that were not facing a shortage of empty containers can be nominated to carry exports.

The CPA also decided to carry out forced shipment of 20-feet empty containers currently lying idle in the port yards.

It also decided to immediately shift a good portion of 20-feet empty containers, which were not required for carrying exports, and 40-feet empty containers owned by the MLOs that do not provide shipping services towards US and European ports and have service in regional ports only, the export destinations of Bangladesh, from the ICDs to the port for forced shipment.

This was to enable the ICDs to create some space to receive more export cargoes that were waiting on trucks and trailers in queues in front of the ICDs.

BSAA Chairman Syed Md Arif, Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association Director Khairul Alam Sujan, Maersk Line Country Head Angshuman Mustafi, CMA CGM Head of Operations Enamul Haque, feeder operator and Head of Operations at GBX Logistics Muntasir Rubayat, and Secretary to Bicda Ruhul Amin Sikder were present among others.

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