The port authority is reportedly unconcerned about the complaints regarding the unauthorized entry of outsiders despite the port being customs bonded area
The security at Benapole port— the country's largest land port—has been compromised due to open intrusion of external personnel and outsiders inside the port, alleged agents and importers concerned.
Every year around two million tons of goods are imported through the Benapole port. From this the Bangladesh government collects around Tk6,000 crore yearly in tax revenues. The port authority also collects its share of tax revenue separately.
However, Benapole Custom House did not meet its revenue collection target in the first five months of the current fiscal year (FY2020-21). The revenue collection target was Tk2,506.06 crore whereas only Tk1,509 crore was collected, resulting in a revenue deficit of Tk999 crore.
According to Benapole Customs House sources, in the FY2019-20, 1.86 million tons of goods were imported through the port, which was a slight increase from the previous FY2018-19, when 1.83 million tons of goods were imported.
But these imported products are not always safe inside the port as goods are constantly stolen, alleged importers.
Abdul Latif, joint general secretary of the Benapole Importers’ and Exporters’ Association, said: “Outsiders entering port without the need of any authorization are stealing goods at the port. Five of my shipments have been stolen from the port shed. Last month, thieves stole parts of a machine, worth Tk12 lakh, imported by Crown Cement Company from the port.”
On a visit, this correspondent learned that there are a total of 42 sheds in the port. At each shed, one “Tendul” (an external NGO worker) is appointed without the necessary authorization.
These “Tenduls” are engaging goods theft and tax evasion, alleged importers.
Even though the security personnel are on duty at every gate of the port, outsiders are able to enter the port facilities freely, our correspondent also noted.
Moreover, the port authority is reportedly unconcerned about the complaints regarding the unauthorized entry of outsiders despite the port being customs bonded area.
On December 17, port associations concerned met at a high-level advisory committee at Benapole Customs House and complained about the open movement of outsiders inside the port.
But the port authority has not been able to remove the unauthorized entries till date.
Mofizur Rahman Sajan, president of Benapole C&F Agents’ Association, said the security of the port has come under risk because of unrestricted access for unauthorized personnel inside the port sheds.
“We have complained about the matter to the port authority a number of times but the port is failing to restrict access to outsiders.”
Matiar Rahman, director of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: The Benapole port is one of the main economic zones in the country and this particular port facilitates the lion’s share of goods trade between India and Bangladesh.
“The free movement of unauthorized people in the port is in no way acceptable. We are concerned about the security of the port,” he said.
Benapole Port Director Abdul Jalil said the port will restrict access and secure itself from unauthorized entry. Moreover, external ‘Tenduls’ will no longer be placed inside the port shed under any circumstances.
“We have not received any complaints about goods theft. We will certainly take actions if we receive such complaints.”