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Customs to auction undelivered cargoes to clear port congestion

It's among major package decisions of Port Advisory Committee; ESLS shelved

Our Correspondent | December 11, 2017 00:00:00

CHITTAGONG, Dec 10: The Customs will auction out undelivered cargoes to clear port jams as part of package measures undertaken Sunday for augmenting activities of the country's prime seaport

Chittagong Port Advisory Committee in a meeting, chaired by Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan, adopted the decisions in the wake of deepening shipping problems facing the port.

The major decisions include procurement of a good number of lightering vessels to speed up quick unloading of import cargo from the large vessels in deep seaport area, expedite dredging in the Karnaphuli River channel, holding Customs auction of undelivered cargoes by the Chittagong Customs House and allowing at least two more off-docks beyond 20 kilometres off the port area as per ICD (Inland Container Depots) Policy of the government.

The Shipping Minister asked Chittagong City Corporation to construct a truck terminal as lack of it is severely disrupting the city traffic which is causing logjam of vehicles.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Engineer Mosharraf Hossain, Chittagong City Mayor AJM Nasir Uddin, MA Latif MP, Shamsul Haque Chowdhury MP, ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury MP, Didarul Alam MP, Nazrul Islam MP, Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad, Divisional Commissioner Abdul Mannan, DG, Shipping, Syed Ariful Islam, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Mahbubul Alam, BGMEA first vice-president Moinuddin Ahmed Mintu, Saif Powertec managing director Tarafdar Ruhul Amin, Chittagong Port Authority chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal and Member (admin and planning) Zafar Alam and Member (harbour and marine) Commodore Shahin Rahman were among others present at the meeting held at the CPA Training Complex.

Facing strong opposition from the port-users, the Advisory Committee decided to postpone the Electronic Seal and Lock Service (ESLS) earlier scheduled to be introduced Monday (tomorrow).

Regarding introduction of Xcel to control overloaded trucks and container carriers on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway the committee decided to launch awareness campaign through media before enforcement of the load control.

Chairman of Chittagong Port Authority Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal told the meeting that the CPA needs at least two more off-docks to help expedite cargo handling as the off-docks fully handle the export containers of the port.

But three lawmakers from Chittagong - Shamsul Huq Chowdhury, ABM Fazle Karim and Didarul Alam - opposed the CPA chairman's proposal, arguing that there are as many as 16 active off-docks in and around the port area. The government policy is also there not to allow any more off-docks within 20 kilometres of the port.

The business leaders and the port-users' forum (PUF) led by president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mahbubul Alam said the importers have been suffering for last one year in taking their industrial raw materials to the plants and the consumer goods are facing supply disruption due to severe crisis of the lightering vessels.

The government is not allowing procurement of lightering vessels as per its recent decisions while the importers are suffering. The Water Transport Cell, a forum of the lightering vessel owners, which controls booking of the lightering vessels for lightering cargos from the larger vessels that cannot enter the port jetties, have to overstay, in cases, for more than a month to get the cargo lightened.

Minister Shajahan Khan said there is no problem in procuring more lightering vessels. More lightering vessels will be added to the fleet for augmenting cargo handling.

Mr Khan scoffed at those alleging interference and irregularities in appointment to the Laskar post in the CPA recently. Those who are complaining resorted to unwanted interference that is going against the government, he said.

They, he further said, are misguiding the people by dishing out wrong information. There may be "evil political designs" behind such activities. There has been no unrest in the port over the last eight years, but the vested quarters were now trying to make unstable the port through misleading information.

"I have been given responsibility by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as Shipping Minister and to perform that responsibility I need to come to Chittagong and work for development of Chittagong Port Authority," he told his audience representing the port city.

The minister noted that the prime seaport of Bangladesh has been upgraded to the rank of global port by Lloyd's List, at 71 now from that of 98 in 2009 when he took up the charge.

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