The delivery of perishable goods from refrigerated containers at the Chittagong port has slowed in the aftermath of the new coronavirus outbreak in the country, officials say.
A refrigerated container, also known as reefer, is a container used in intermodal freight transport that is refrigerated for the transportation of temperature-sensitive cargo such as fruits, meat, fish, garlic, onion, vegetables, etc.
The number of refrigerated containers stored at the designated yards of the port has surpassed its capacity, the officials said on Tuesday.
There are reefer plug facilities for keeping 1,620 such containers at three separate yards in the main sea port, but as of Tuesday afternoon, that number almost doubled to 3,030.
In such a situation, the port authorities extend electric plugging system or divide the existing power system to all containers. If they fail to provide plugging to such containers, the ships cannot discharge such containers.
The delivery from reefer containers is important as it helps stabilise the market of perishable goods, mainly the fruits, prices of which have shot up in the past few days.
An official at the Chittagong Port Authority, or CPA, told the FE: "The pace of delivery has been very slow in recent weeks."
Since the imported fruits are pricey and during the lockdown-like situation, their demand in the market has fallen.
Furthermore, health experts advised people to prefer boiled foods to protect from the virus.
The port official said over the past 24 hours, the delivery from reefer containers was merely 124 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). In normal working days, the daily delivery ranges from 400 TEUs and 500 TEUs.
Meanwhile, many container lines said that they were unable to discharge reefer containers in the port due to a shortage of reefer plugs at the terminals.
"If the situation remains unchanged, we may wait for a day or more," said an official working at a feeder vessel services company.
Usually, the consignees do not require paying demurrage for the stay of four days at the port. But after four days, they will have to pay demurrage to the port.
The container lines also charge demurrage for the delay of getting back the containers.
To fight the deadly virus, Bangladesh has rolled out restrictions since March 26, which have been extended until April 11.
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