National Board of Revenue (NBR) has transferred 94 assistant revenue officers and nine assistant commissioners to Chittagong port to reduce vessel and container congestion.
Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) will also procure nine more cranes within the next two or three months to ease the current situation.
For the past two months, businessmen, especially ready-made garment owners, have been paying additional charges as well as missing shipments due to delayed port operations.
As the country’s main export-import gateway, Chittagong port normally witnesses severe container congestion. The situation started to worsen when two gantry cranes were damaged following an accident on June 25 this year.
Container vessels experience a delay of up to 10-11 days in receiving berthing permission. This also increases turnaround time or ships’ stay time at the port. Hence, shipping companies charge more for overstay at the outer anchorage.
Against this backdrop, business leaders aired their grievances during a view-exchange meeting with NBR Chairman Md Nojibur Rahman on Saturday.
The Chittagong Customs House organised the meeting with the stakeholders to keep the Customs House open round the clock to facilitate export and import activities.
Chittagong Customs House Commissioner AFM Abdullah Khan chaired the meeting, which was attended by Secretary of the Shipping Ministry Ashok Madhab Roy, CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal, NBR members Lutfar Rahman and Sultan Md Iqbal, and Commissioner of Chittagong Customs Bond Commissionerate Md Mubinul Kabir.
Foreign buyers are turning their backs on the country for failing to meet shipment deadlines, the businessmen alleged at the meeting.
The businessmen further said that the country’s exports growth dropped to 3.67% in the first 11 months of the just concluded 2016-17 fiscal year.
Director of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturer and Exporters Association Anjan Shekhar Das said the persistent vessel congestion at Chittagong port has put the country’s number one export sector in jeopardy.
Md Nojibur Rahman said: “NBR has decided to keep Chittagong Customs House open for 24 hours a day, round the year, to ease the congestion.”
He also informed the businessmen that port authorities have assured that handling equipment would be procured and new jetties and yards constructed in an aim to resolve the existing problem.
The NBR chairman dubbed manpower shortage as a major hindrance in keeping the Customs House and Chittagong port operational round the clock.
“A total of 94 assistant revenue officers and nine assistant commissioners have already been transferred to Chittagong Customs House. Manpower will be increased further if necessary,” he added.
NBR officials said the decision was taken following instructions from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for speeding up export and import services.
“As many as 4,200 auctionable containers have piled up at the port for 45 days to several years. This stockpile is largely responsible for the chronic congestion,” Coordinator of Container Shipping Agents’ Association Captain Giash Uddin Chowdhury said.
Admitting to the backlog of vessels and operational constraints, Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal announced that the vessel congestion would go away within a few days.
The CPA chairman attributed the current problem to the damaged cranes.
“We are going to procure three cranes for the port soon. Nine more cranes will be procured within two or three months. The construction of a new jetty and a yard will substantially address the problem,” he added.