Business fears Chittagong won't meet security deadline

Business fears Chittagong won't meet security deadline

Business leaders and exporters in Bangladesh are concerned that the Port of Chittagong is likely to fail to implement global security rules by a July 1 deadline.

A.K. Azad, president of the Bangladesh Chamber of Industries, told a business gathering in Dhaka that overseas buyers were threatening to trade with Bangladesh through a third country if Chittagong failed to meet the deadline.

However, Shipping Minister Akbar Hossain assured business leaders that the government was working on implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code and it would meet the July deadline.

Azad said the International Maritime Organization rated Chittagong --- which handles more than 80 percent of the country's trade --- as the second riskiest port in the world.

Azad claimed that there was a move to blacklist the port, but Hossain said necessary measures had already been initiated to implement the ISPS code before the deadline. The minister said container-scanning machines would be installed at Chittagong, and the government planned to buy two new patrol boats for the Coast Guard.

Attacks by pirates and petty thieves on ships anchored at Chittagong are frequent, according to the IMO. Some weeks ago, the police intercepted a huge cache of arms as it was being unloaded at a fertilizer pier.

The shipping minister emphasized that there had been no major incidence of piracy, and that petty thieves would be dealt with through increased vigilance.

Hossain said a new container terminal would be built at Chittagong to ease cargo congestion. Four gantry cranes are being bought and will be in place at the port in the next 16 months, he added.