Chittagong importers urge fee waivers amid COVID-19 shutdown

Chittagong importers urge fee waivers amid COVID-19 shutdown

The Chittagong Port Authority is urging importers to take delivery of containers by any means in order to maintain some flow in the port yard. Photo credit: Shutterstock.com.

Bangladeshi shippers are seeking relief from demurrage and other charges in Chittagong as containers pile up in the port amid a country-wide lockdown to limit the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The closures of factories, offices, and business, now extended to at least April 11, has forced importers to keep containers at the Chittagong port yard. On Wednesday, some 44,926 TEU was being stored there, against capacity of 49,926 TEU.

The Chittagong Port Authority is urging importers to take delivery of containers by any means in order to maintain some flow in the port yard. The port could deliver only 1,708 TEU of containers on Tuesday, compared with over 4,000 a day on a normal day.

The Chittagong customs office is open just two hours a day during the lockdown period and is only releasing cargoes carrying food and medicines. That means containers carrying other goods, including industrial raw materials, are backing up in storage.

Unloading delays

The presence of an excessive number of containers in the yard is causing a delay in unloading containers from vessels, raising their stay time at the jetties. 

“Importers are failing to take delivery of cargoes due to the ongoing [coronavirus-related] adverse situation,” Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), said in a statement.

Alam demanded a waiver of the wharfage charge collected by shipping agents and any additional charges by inland container depots to help importers offset COVID-19 impacts.

The port authority offers four free days for a loaded TEU and realizes storage rent of $6 per day for the next seven days, $12 per day until the 20th day, and $24 per day thereafter. The rent is double in case of an FEU.  

Omar Faruk, secretary of the Chittagong Port Authority, told JOC.com the number of containers at the port yard is going to exceed storage capacity, disrupting operations.

“The port authority can’t waive any fee,” he said. “The shipping ministry has to decide on it.” 

“We have urged all concerned to take container delivery immediately to help avoid congestion in the yard,” Faruk added.