© Anastasiia Guseva

Encouraged by last week’s launch of a direct shipping service between Bangladesh and Italy, three more European countries have now expressed interest in similar services.

“The direct service cuts costs between 30% and 40% and transit by a week or so,” said Mohammad Rashed, chairman of Reliance Shipping and Logistics, local agent of Rome-based RIF Line, which launched the service.

Bangladeshi containers for Europe on feeder vessels from Chittagong to transhipment ports and then onto larger vessels to Europe take 24 days or so, depending on hub congestion.

Officials said executives from Slovenia, Denmark and Portugal had tasked their embassies to approach Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) about launching direct services.

CPA chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan said various mainline operators and shipping agents were also contacting the CPA. He said Chittagong port would offer priority berthing for any vessels to and from Europe to encourage more countries to come forward with such plans.

Bangladesh is the second-largest global manufacturer of apparel, of which more than 50% is exported to Europe and exporters have been clamouring for direct shipping services for a long time.

“Our containers are stuck in transhipment ports for weeks in the event of excessive congestion,” said Rafayet Ullah, a garment factory owner, adding that  using transhipment ports made Bangladeshi goods uncompetitive.

“Direct shipping services can help cut lead time and make us more competitive,” he added.

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