CHATTOGRAM, July 11: A regulatory order issued by the National Board of Revenue (NBR) for introducing electronic sealing and locking of containers or vehicles carrying cargoes from the Chittagong port to nearby off-docks has sparked off strong protests.
Leaders of two trade bodies have decried the issuance of the statutory regulatory order (SRO) and sought the intervention of the prime minister to withdraw the order.
They questioned the introduction of the new system, terming it unnecessary and hazardous to smooth functioning of the cargo handling activities.
It is aimed at giving undue advantage to a particular company, they alleged.
"When the containers remain locked with bullet seals and there is no report of pilferage of cargo, the extra activities inside the limited port space or yards in the name of electronic sealing is simply unnecessary," said Nurul Quayyum Khan, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA).
The association handles cargoes as the port's extended support organ.
"We have held a board meeting over the issue and expressed our observations to Chairman of Chittagong Port Authority Commodore Zulfiquer Aziz on Tuesday," Nurul Quayyum Khan told the FE.
The BICDA has also written a letter to the top authorities in the government, seeking their intervention to withdraw the SRO issued by the NBR on June 26 for introduction of the electronic sealing and locking service by a single company while the security of cargo is supervised by the Customs authorities.
There is no report of pilferage on the way between the port and off-docks over the last 15 years and the Customs officials are stationed permanently at every off-dock and the Chittagong Port, Quayyum Khan said.
On Tuesday, the presidents of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry wrote separate letters to the Prime Minister, expressing the grievances of the importers and exporters.
In his letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, CCCI president Mahbubul Alam said the inland container depots were set up in Chattogram to expedite cargo-handling activities in the port.
Under the SRO No. 198 dated 26 June 2018, each and every truck, trailer or covered van carrying cargoes from the Port to the inland container depots around the prime seaport will need to go through electronic sealing and locking in the port yard that will cause undue hassle in the port, he said.
If this system is introduced, every container will have to wait for another 48 hours in the port yard and the importers will have to pay additional Tk 600 for 48 hours and another Tk 50 for every single hour to the sealing company for every truck, covered van or trailer that unloads cargo from containers in the port yard.
In his letter to the Prime Minister, CMCCI President Khalilur Rahman said the cost of doing business in the country is reportedly high. And the electronic seal and lock service will enhance the cost of doing business further.
The proposed service is not prevalent anywhere in the world, he said.
The Customs authority is fully aware of it. The proposed service will raise the cost the importers and exporters several billions of taka every year, he said.
Not only the business cost will rise, but the system will create congestion of containers, covered vans, trucks and trailers and will further aggravate the flow of export and hit the overall investment in the country, he added.