Chattogram port is fast running out of storage space as reefer containers used to transport perishable goods are piling up due to limited delivery in the past few days amid the countrywide lockdown imposed to contain the spread of lethal coronavirus.
Importers who will take delivery of the goods such as fish, fruits, onion, garlic and ginger are also facing delays in getting the required documents from banks and different government offices for the movement control order.
The port can supply electricity to a maximum of 2,000 reefer containers but until yesterday afternoon a total of 2,900 such containers piled up in the port yard, forcing the authority to arrange alternative means of power.
Usually 400-450 reefer containers are delivered from the port a day but the number came down to only 100-150 in the last few days, said officials at the traffic department of the port.
At least three vessels with another 100 containers were waiting at the port jetties until yesterday and a delay in unloading the containers will increase the vessels’ stay time and raise charges.
Although the arrival of vessels at the port as well as loading and unloading of goods and containers are going on, the limited delivery of the imported products is creating congestion in different yards of the port, the officials said.
Until yesterday, a total of 44,926 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of containers were lying at the port against its total storage space for 49,018 TEUs.
Officials of Sea Consortium, the local agent of a vessel named Express Kaburu, said the ship had a total of 87 reefer containers but only 50 were unloaded so far.
The vessel that berthed on March 30 was scheduled to leave the port today but it is feared that the departure could be deferred.
OEL Delta carrying 367 import containers including 52 refrigerated ones got berthed at a port jetty on Tuesday but only eight reefer containers could be discharged until 1pm yesterday, said Muntasir Rubaiyat, head of operations of the ship’s local agent GBX Logistics.
Another vessel, Delaware Trader, carrying 1,171 TEUs of containers including 31 reefers berthed at the port yesterday but it was uncertain when unloading of containers would begin, said Ajmir Hossain Chowdhury, assistant manager of the ship’s operating firm Mediterranean Shipping.
Though the port has kept its operations up and running round the clock amid the lockdown, various other offices concerned are not offering services like the port, said Mohammad Zafar Alam, member (admin) of the Chittagong Port Authority.
Clearing and forwarding (C&F) agents that take delivery of the imported goods on behalf of the importers said they need to collect import-related documents from banks as well as quarantine and radiation certificates from the government’s plant quarantine office and Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.
Masudur Rahman Bhuiyan, a Chattogram-based fruit and commodity importer, said he imported 10 containers of onion and six containers of orange from Egypt that arrived at the port before the shutdown began.
But he could take delivery of only four containers of onion and two containers of orange in the last six days.
“I faced difficulties in getting LC-related documents from banks since they remain open only for a limited time while staffers in the foreign exchange department are not always present,” Bhuiyan said.
However, Alam said the situation would improve in a few days as the customs authority has initiated a move to speed up the delivery of imported goods.