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Bangladeshi apparel makers are partly blaming the over-reliance of buyers on Maersk Line for the large volumes of export cargo stuck off-dock in Chittagong.

Yesterday, some 15,553 teu of export containers were lying off-dock, 70% of them waiting for Maersk, shippers said at a meeting at the port.

Some of the containers had been waiting for nearly a month, said Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association, adding that normally, only around 6,000 teu would be stored at the 19 off-docks close to Chittagong port.

Shippers also blame a lack of feeder vessels, space shortage on mainline vessels at transhipment ports and shortages of 40ft boxes.

The off-docks are responsible for handling exports; trucks bring goods in and they are stuffed into containers before being transported to the vessels.

Syed Nazrul Islam, first vice president, Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), said at Monday’s meeting there were a large number of trucks waiting outside the off-docks for up to 10 days to unload export cargo.

“This has resulted in an increase in truck rent, and uncertainty looms large over shipment of exports,” he said, adding a request for shipping lines to speed up the movement of these containers.

During the meeting the BGMEA asked Maersk Line to increase the number of feeder vessels operating on the Chittagong-Colombo route and to use feeder vessels from other operators to help expedite the movement of the export containers.

And it was said that despite the huge bookings from foreign buyers for export goods, the absence of adequate feeder vessels in the region had deepened the crisis.

The BGMEA will inform foreign buyers that the increased bookings with Maersk and its inability to meet demand had increased the problems and created the backlog.

The meeting, chaired by Chittagong Port Authority chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, decided that the port would give permission for new feeder vessels to operate on the Chittagong-Colombo route without delay.

Additionally, the meeting decided to increase the number of jetties for container vessels to help resolve the crisis.

Angshuman Mustafi, country manager of Maersk Bangladesh, said since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, supply chains had experienced “an unprecedented scale of operational challenges”. There was a strong surge in demand from western markets, while the  capacity to move goods was limited.

“This has led to significant bottlenecks, capacity issues and unforeseen delays across supply chains,” he told The Loadstar.

He said Bangladesh was an important market for Maersk and “we remain committed to solving the roadblocks faced by our customers”.

“We are working on multiple measures to mitigate the impact, including, but not limited to, using feeder vessels of other operators for overcoming the backlog for exporters,” he added.

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