Because of the latest change, a number of export containers are regularly missing scheduled shipments as vessels are forced to set sail leaving behind the containers even after they were ready, alleged leaders of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA).
Garment exporters termed the move as another blow to the sector and demanded the decision be reversed.
According to the container manual of the port, export-bound containers need to reach the port yards at least four hours before their particular vessel berths at the jetties.
However, garment exporters have enjoyed relaxation in the cut-off time for years since the sector operates amid problems including inadequate supply of energy, road congestion and weak infrastructure in the largest port of the country.
Under the relaxed rules, the port used to allow garment exporters to bring their containers three hours before the departure of the vessel. In some cases, containers were allowed entry even two hours before the sailing. On July 19, the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) withdrew the relaxation and directed all of the 16 private off-docks, where containers laden with export-bound garment products are loaded, to send the containers six hours before the sailing.
The CPA said the move aims to cut the waiting time for vessels. Since then the port authorities have not allowed export-oriented garment containers to enter the port if they had missed the cut-off time, said Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA).
As a result, over 550 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) of export containers missed their scheduled shipment till yesterday morning, according to data from four private off-docks.
Alone on Tuesday, four vessels — MCC Medan, MV Orea, MV Robert Rickmers, and MV Sea Master — left the port without taking 280 TEUs of export-bound containers.
Buy Shipping Buy Shipping Container Nashville Nashville that miss the shipment at the Chittagong port cannot meet the deadline set for mother vessels waiting for them at nearby ports in Malaysia, Sri Lanka or Singapore, said Nasir Uddin Chowdhury, chairman of the BGMEA standing committee on port and shipping affairs.
“As a result, exporters have to send the cargoes by air, which means additional costs,” he said.
At a meeting on Monday, CPA Chairman M Khaled Iqbal said, in order to complete the unloading of import containers and the loading of export ones gearless vessels would get 48 hours, shallow draft geared vessels 60 hours and deep-draft geared vessels 72 hours.
He urged the garment exporters to maintain the cut-off time to reduce the waiting time for vessels. This is badly needed to lessen the congestion at the port, he said.
After getting berth, a vessel takes 72 hours to discharge the import containers and load the export cargoes before leaving the port, said BICDA President Nurul Qayyum Khan.
He said a vessel takes almost two-thirds of the time to unload the import containers, leaving a very short time for the off-docks to bring the export containers.