The recovery of import-export businesses post Covid-19 lockdowns is being hampered by the slow and expensive pace of work at the Chattogram port.

We are concerned to learn that the recovery of import-export businesses post Covid-19 lockdowns is being hampered by the slow and expensive pace of work at the Chattogram port. According to Mohammad Ali Khokon, president of the Bangladesh Textile Mills Association (BTMA), many shipping lines are reluctant to send their vessels to this port due to delays in unloading goods. With businesses finally starting to get back on their feet, demand has risen all around for container ships, but this has unfortunately caused an abnormal rise in the price per container—from the pre-pandemic fee of USD 600 to a staggering USD 6,000. Because of the delays due to port congestion, businesses are also incurring losses in terms of paying demurrage for overstaying and goods not being attended to at the port.

While there have been encouraging trends regarding trade—such as the 6.36 percent rise of garment exports to non-traditional markets in 2020-21 fiscal year, despite the two waves of the pandemic—the economy is still a long way away from fully recovering (at least to the pre-pandemic levels). So, now more than ever, it is important for the customs authorities to buck up and clear out shipments as speedily and efficiently as possible. In the last fiscal year, the Customs House, Chattogram (CHC) itself recorded a 23.23 percent higher year-on-year revenue growth of Tk 51,577 crore—the highest ever in CHC’s history. Though the CHC officials say this increase is owing to them improving surveillance to eliminate false declarations, it is undeniable that the increased demand in the energy, power and construction sectors have contributed to the customs house’s success as well. It is crucial for the organisation to now carry this momentum forward and perform even better once the current fiscal year is concluded.

As such, we urge the Chattogram port authorities to conduct the unloading, loading, and shipping of goods with as little delay as possible, so that businesses, big or small, need not pay for hefty overstaying fees on top of the already expensive process of importing and exporting goods using shipping containers. The customs department must also make sure not to hold businesses hostage by not completing procedural tasks on time. Losses due to such delays will eventually affect the whole economy, slow down or even negate our recovery, if issues with customs are not resolved soon.

Source : The Dailystar