Users plead for raising Ctg port efficiency

Authorities say further improvement in the offing

| Updated: October 24, 2017 17:05:13

Users plead for raising Ctg port efficiency

The Chittagong seaport users Saturday urged the authorities concerned to improve further the efficiency in container handling as well as documentation process and inspection of goods for reducing the costs.


They appreciated the recent improvement despite the capacity constraints, but stressed the need for making further efforts to increase the efficiency at a level that would match the international good practices.


The businesses and other stakeholders concerned put forward the recommendation at an opinion exchange meeting at the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) training centre here.


Shipping secretary Md Abdus Samad, senior port and customs officials, trade body leaders and operators of different port-services were present at the meeting.


CPA chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal convened the meeting, seeking suggestions from the port users and stakeholders for developing a 24x7 system of export-import environment at the prime seaport of the country.


Taking part in the discussion, the stakeholders emphasised on increasing the container handling capacity through expansion of terminal and yard facilities, acquisition of modern containers and bulk cargo-handling equipment within the current fiscal year.


In response, the CPA chairman informed the meeting that the port authority was rapidly advancing to solve the yard and equipment problems.


He said the CPA has targeted to set up Patenga Container Terminal in 2019, Laldia Multipurpose Terminal in 2020 and Bay Container Terminal (first phase) in 2021.


He pointed out the improvement in container handling, which is estimated to cross 2.5 million TEUs (twenty equivalent units) in 2017. The port has procured 80 equipments this year and will procure 150 more next year, when the shortage of equipment would not be a major problem, he added.


Mr Iqbal further said that the off-docks were nothing but extended part of the seaport as they are handling 100 per cent export cargoes of the country and a good volume of import cargoes.


He urged the businesses to set up more off-docks as the port was ready to provide them with necessary land, 20-km away from the port area.


Terming the Chittagong seaport as the heart of the national economy, shipping secretary Abdus Samad said that the users, being an integral part of the port's development, were immensely contributing to the national economy by keeping the port efficiently functional.


"If any of the port users neglects respective responsibilities, the whole system of export, import and business will be dysfunctional and lead to hamper the national economy," he said.


The stakeholders also raised allegations of bureaucratic tangles in the shipping ministry and taking time to give decisions on the port-related development and procurement schemes.


In response, the shipping secretary said he has already instructed the officials that their prime task will be to complete the port's file works in five minutes and, if complicated, it will take one hour to one and a half hours.


"I have also instructed them not to sit idle after writing a letter to respective departments, but to make personal enquiries with the concerned departments following the government rules and regulations."


Commissioner of Chittagong Customs House AFM Abdullah pointed out that his office was sometimes facing delays in getting response on files sent to Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC), and quarantine issues.


Physical verification of a consignment took 25-28 days in the past, but he has brought it down to 12 days now and trying to bring it down further to five days only.


He emphasised on setting up of offices of the BAEC, Quarantine and BSTI with due executive power.


Representative of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Mahfuzul Haque Shah came down heavily on the lack of power of the CPA management board, including its chairman.


The top officers, including the chairman, have to run almost every week to Dhaka for every single decision, he said.


Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CMCCI) president Khalilur Rahman said the businesses wanted the port chairman to have much more authority to expedite the port functions. Otherwise, he said, the businesses will continue to suffer.


He said the port chairman had much power when it was Chittagong Port Trust, but now it has lost most of its executive power after 1976 when it became the CPA.


President of Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association Nurul Qayyum Khan said the off-docks handle 22 per cent of the total container cargoes arriving in the country. Of which, 35 per cent cargoes belong to the RMG sector. They handle the entire export cargoes as well.


The Chittagong port recently experienced huge congestion of bulk and containerised cargoes due to flood, cyclone, surge in import of consumer goods ahead of the Ramadan festival, and annual budget for the current fiscal year.


Under the circumstances, the businesses demanded stepping up the unloading and delivery of imported raw materials as the readymade garments (RMG) manufacturers and exporters, among others, were missing their export schedules.


To face the situation and ease the congestion of containers and import vessels, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently instructed to keep the Chittagong port, Chittagong Customs House and Benapole Land Port operational round the clock.


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