To make the Pangaon Inland Container Terminal (ICT) more functional, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) has principally decided to request the ministry of shipping for reducing the higher cost of container vessels, operating in the Chittagong port to Pangaon ICT and Pangaon ICT to Chittagong port, to an acceptable range.
The NBR has come up with the decision as it found that users were being discouraged to use the Pangaon ICT due to the recent water vessel fare hike for private container vessels for transportation through the route.
The NBR made the decision at an inter-ministerial meeting held at its headquarters in the city yesterday with its Chairman Nojibur Rahman in the chair.
The NBR held the meeting to discuss different issues to popularise the Pangaon ICT, which was inaugurated in November 2013 at Keraniganj, on the bank of the Buriganga, but still remains virtually idle since then.
The port was built to help reduce the cost of carrying goods and ease the traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, but the traders have been avoiding the port mainly due to irregular vessel schedules and higher tariff charges.
According to Pangaon Custom House data, only 14 water vessels landed at Pangaon ICT with 424 containers from April to October this year.
The meeting was attended by a total of 27 representatives from different ministries and organisations including ministry of shipping, commerce, finance, Chittagong Port Authority, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce of Industry, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA).
During the meeting, most of the users has negatively reacted on the recent vessel fare hike by shipping ministry and requested the tax authorities to take necessary initiatives to reduce it to an acceptable range.
According to a circular issued on October 26 by the shipping ministry, traders have to pay US$110 from the existing $75 for empty 20 feet equivalent units or TEU. For goods-laden 20 TEUs, the fare was hiked at $220 $150.
Meanwhile, the fare was hiked at $440 from the existing $300 for goods-laden 40 TEUs, while it was hiked at $220 from $150 for the same-size empty containers.
The meeting also discussed about other issues including how to make Pangaon ICT functional, the port charges, ensuring regular container vessel movements, harassment by intelligence officials in the name of inspection of imported goods etc.
Attending the meeting, representatives urged the government to reduce the different charges relating to product loading and unloading, storage, and mobile harbour crane for using Pangaon ICT.
In response, representative from Chittagong Port Authority said that the authority had send a recommendation to the shipping ministry to reduce the port charges by around 70% which may come into effect in a week, meeting sources said.
The government is all set to cut down the different port charges, ranging from 40% to 70% to attract the users and to make the route more competitive with others.
Pointing at the irregular vessel movement as a barrier, port users have urged the government to take urgent initiatives in this regard.
Currently, Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL) is operating three water vessels in the route. The CPA has leased the three vessels to SAPL on a condition that the SAPL have to encourage shipping line and freight forwarders to handle at least 20% of the container collected by the company through the Pangaon ICT for next two years.
The meeting has decided to ask SAPL to maintain schedules and operate regular container vessels in the route, confirmed Dhaka Customs Clearing & Forwarding Agents Association Vice President Lokman Hakim, who attended the meeting.
The port users said constant checking in the name of inspection of imported goods by the Central Intelligence Cell and the Customs Intelligence and Investigation Directorate under the National Board of Revenue (NBR) creates harassment for them.
They also requested the NBR Chairman to take necessary initiatives to address the issues relating to their financial losses.“The chairman has assured us of considering the matter,” said Hakim.
The meeting also decided to make import of some products mandatory through the terminal to make the port functional. The products include cotton, metal scrap, yarn, capital machineries, glassware, glass sheet and some commercial products with user base mainly in Dhaka and its adjacent areas.
According to the meeting, the FBCCI, BGMEA and BKMEA will sit together again to find out the names of other products and to inform the NBR within two weeks.