The government will expand the off-dock facilities to help ease congestion at Chattogram seaport and facilitate quick clearance of container cargos by allowing unloading from outside the port area.
The government allows the establishment of off-dock facilities in the form of private container freight stations (CFSs) or inland container depots (ICDs).
Top officials of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) and National Board of Revenue (NBR) were present at the meeting chaired by Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi.
The meeting authorised the Shipping Ministry and National Board of Revenue (NBR) to work together to increase the number of off-dock facilities.
Currently, the Chittagong Port Authority handles around 75 per cent of the imported containers at the port area. Due to the huge pressure, it takes long time and creates congestion in the port, according to meeting sources.
Currently, a total of 17 off-docks are operating outside the Chittagong Port to handle imported containers.
Eligible private sector operators are licensed as CFSs and ICDs to store selected low-risk import items and empty containers, and conduct Customs clearance formalities and allow unstuffing and delivery of selected categories of import consignments.
In a letter issued by Chittagong Port Authority, it requested the Shipping Ministry to hold a meeting with NBR to increase the off-dock facilities.
It also mentioned that it is not possible to expand off-dock facilities with the existing manpower of the Chittagong Port and customs.
Talking to inland container depots officials, it has been learnt that customs allows a total of 37 import items at the off-dock area.
In taking delivery of containers to private ICDs, NoC from the concerned shipping agent and Chittagong Port Authority have to be obtained.
Rice, Wheat, Mustard seed, Waste paper, Chickpeas, Pulse, Raw cotton, Scrap, Animal fodder, Soyabean, Rice bran, Corn gluten meal, Palm kernels, Maize, Hard coke, Marble chips, Ball clay, Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Fertilizer, Dates, Sugar, Bitumen, Empty container for beverages and some other items are allowed to be handled in the off-dock area.
Md. Ruhul Amin Sikder (Biplob), secretary of Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA), said the pressure on the country’s biggest seaport has to be eased and expanding the off-dock facility is a good option to do that.
The volume of trade has been increasing at Chittagong port and it is time to look at alternatives to ease the pressure, he added.
The decision would ease the congestion at port indeed, said Ruhul Amin Sikder.