Chittagong

Vessels are waiting up to five days for a berth at Chittagong port, adding to the woes of importers during lockdown and the month of Ramadan.

Port officials say during Ramadan, working hours at the port have fallen, resulting in less productivity and longer queues for an unloading window.

Previously, vessels berthed within two days of arriving at the port area and, normally, ships can unload boxes and reload within 48 hours. This has now increased to 72 hours.

Today, some nine container vessels are waiting at the outer anchorage, while 10 were being handled at berths. Altogether, 91 operating vessels are currently in the Chittagong port area.

At the same time, the number of containers at the port yard has reached more than 38,000 teu, due to slow delivery, despite the port authority’s recent efforts to keep the yard free of congestion.

Mohammed Abdullah Jahir, director of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, told The Loadstar Ramadan had a particularly significant effect on berthing

“When vessel waiting times at Chittagong port increases, the subsequent return voyage also gets delayed, creating stockpiles of import consignments [at transhipment ports],” he said.

And Mohammad Ahsanuzzaman, associate director of Transmarine Logistics, the local agent of Yang Ming, added: “Importers are facing the pinch”.

But he believes the problem should be over by next month.

Meanwhile, Chittagong Port Authority has asked shipping agents to deploy larger vessels and withdraw small feeder vessels between Chittagong and regional transhipment ports in Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang, in a bid to improve productivity.

Chittagong has the capacity to handle 190-metre vessels with 9.5-metre water draught. However, most of the feeder vessels deployed between Chittagong and regional transhipment ports are less than 185 metres, resulting in capacity loss and low productivity.

One senior port official said that if 190-metre long vessels were deployed, port productivity could increase by 20%, and just 85 larger ships could carry the cargo currently loaded onto 115 ships.

In recent months, many operators have reduced capacity on the routes into Chittagong.

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