With a countrywide strike of goods transporters coming to an end on Monday night, the Chattogram port and 19 private inland container depots (ICDs) are now struggling with the backlog of the preceding four days.
The import and export activities mostly encompass releasing inbound cargo arriving inside containers on ships and timely shipment of similar outbound ones.
A huge number of trucks, covered vans and prime movers were seen slowly proceeding in queues towards the port all day yesterday. The resulting tailbacks were one to two kilometres long, stretching till Barik Building Mor and Saltgola Crossing areas.
Choking with a huge number of export-laden containers, the private ICDs are sensing more backlog this week for an acute shortage of empty containers, as little delivery was made from the port in the last couple of days.
The ICD officials said as the export cargoes sent by the readymade garment factories would start arriving from today, more problems would be created for a shortage of empty containers.
Main Uddin, head of operations of private ICD Shafi Motors Ltd located around eight kiliometres away from the port, informed that they sent several prime movers carrying export-laden containers at around 12:00pm.
The vehicles were yet to enter the port as of 5:00pm.
Altaf Hossain, general secretary of the Chittagong Customs Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) Association, said it was taking a long time for vehicles to enter the port as there was a huge pressure of outbound vehicles.
Everyone is trying to get their own tasks completed, he said.
During the four-day strike, over 2,500 TEUs of import-laden containers had piled up inside the port yards as deliveries were badly disrupted.
The C&F association leader said it would take three to four days to regain the normal pace.
Four vessels, SOL Hind, Kota Bistari, Maersk Haiphong and MV Bangkok, sailed out of the port yesterday afternoon.
Though some 370 TEUs could not reached to them within that time, it was not as big a failure as was being apprehended earlier.
All of these vessels had deferred their morning departures and waited till afternoon, only to get as many export-laden containers as possible from different ICDs.
SOL Hind, which had first deferred its scheduled departure on Sunday, had 545 TEUs till Monday night.
Since resumption of operations on Monday night, 424 TEUs could be reached to the vessel from different ICDs before it left at 1:45pm.
“The vessel left behind 121 TEUs though we had feared it might miss more. But the ICDs put in a huge effort,” said Muntasir Rubayat, head of operations at the ship’s local agent GBX Logistics.
With several vessels extending stays at jetties waiting for exports, the number of container vessels waiting at the outer anchorage increased, causing berthing delay for them.
A total of 10 container vessels were waiting for berths till yesterday morning.
Till yesterday, 9,500 TEUs containers were still inside the ICDs.
Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association Secretary Ruhul Amin Sikder said the ICDs can operate in a comfortable manner if the number stands between 6,000 TEUs and 7,000 TEUs.
It will take a few days to ship the 9,500 TEUs as it will be a challenge to find feeder vessels bound for transshipment ports available, he said.
Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL), an ICD at Patenga area, had a total of 1,315 TEUs till yesterday afternoon while usually it stores some 700 TEUs to 800 TEUs.
SAPL Chief Operating Officer Kamrul Islam Mazumder said the real pressure was yet to come from garment manufacturers waiting to send their exports for the past four days.
He sensed that a huge number of exports-carrying vehicles from Dhaka and other parts of country would start turning up from today or tomorrow.
And it will take several days for the ICDs to deal with those, he opined.