The National Board of Revenue (NBR) approved a new private inland container depot (ICD) in a bid to enhance container-handling capacity in the Chattogram Port.
The ICD would be set up at an estimated cost of Tk 3.0 billion. It is 41 km away from the zero point of the port.
The NBR's Customs Wing approved Baylink Containers Limited's bid on Sunday to establish the off-doc, tagging some conditions to meet compliances.
It declared proposed area of the ICD as customs bonded area following applications of the company, no objection certificates of the Ministry of Shipping and the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), and recommendations from the Chittagong Customs House.
According to the NBR's conditions, the proposed off-doc has to be established on 15 acres of land. It has to be constructed at least 20 kilometres away from the port area.
The proposed ICD must have capacity to handle at least 4,500 TEUs of containers. There must be sufficient and proper shades, yards and examination shades to handle and store import-export and empty containers separately.
The ICD must have auction yard, bank and infrastructure facilities as well as connectivity with Asycuda World of customs. At the beginning, the ICD will be allowed to handle empty and export goods-loaded containers.
A senior customs official said they approved the new ICD, considering necessity of more off-docs to handle export-import goods.
The new off-doc would help to enhance capacity of container handling in the port and ease congestion, he added.
Currently, there are some 19 ICDs in the Chattogram Port, handling all export goods and 38 import goods.
The CPA, on several occasions, recommended the NBR to allow the ICDs to handle all types of goods in line with the international best practice.
Earlier, the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) alleged higher cost and time to get imported products released from the ICDs, compared to that of the port charges, when the NBR allowed those to handle all imported products during the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Talking to the FE, Nurul Qayyum Khan, president of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA), said more ICDs are needed to handle goods.
"The private off-docs are allowed to handle only a few non-RMG import products. So, the (BGMEA's) allegations on higher cost and time are not valid in this case."
He also said each of the ICDs needs huge investment, and naturally their cost might be higher than that of the government entities.
"We have extended all-out support during the lockdown to keep supply chain uninterrupted," he added.
Mohammad Omar Faruk, the CPA secretary, said there might be transition from the ports to the ICDs for taking delivery of imported products.
The private ICDs have to create similar facilitates like the ports to encourage private sector to use those.
A source, involved with construction of the new ICD, said construction of the off-doc was delayed due to (delay in getting) the NBR's approval.
High-ups of the new ICD met the Chittagong customs commissioner on Monday to proceed further, he added.
Spokesperson of Baylink could not be contacted over phone despite several attempts.