Vol. 5 Num 689 Mon. May 08, 2006  
Front Page

Container Congestion
Ships' calling at Ctg port may be restricted

Failing to cope with the huge pressure of ships, the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is now thinking of imposing some sort of 'restrictions' on the ships' calling.

The chairman of CPA yesterday talked to high officials of the port and shipping ministry to find out ways for checking the number of feeder services plying between Chittagong and other connecting ports, sources said.

The number of feeder services recently went up to 50 from 28 earlier. The port authority is also thinking of changing the rule of berthing permission. Under the existing rule, the government allows all ships to call at the ports unless it carries contraband or harmful items for the country's environment.

The authorities think pressure of ships went up as some ships come with lower capacity.

There are many ships that often come with less than half of their capacity, causing long queue at the outer anchorage, said a shipping ministry high official.

The government is thinking of asking the shipping agents to bring ships with full capacity so as to lessen pressure on the port while the feeder operators have given a one-month ultimatum to clear congestions at the port and warned of imposing additional $130 surcharge on each container.

On an average, over one dozen ships wait at the outer anchorage, counting more than $10,000 additional cost per day each. Consequently, the turn around time with Singapore increased to 25 days from 15 days earlier.

Earlier the port authority had given a letter to the shipping agents association asking not to bring in more ships at the port, sparking strong opposition from the shipping agents who categorically denied reducing the number of ships.

They urged the port authority to increase the container handling capacity and expand the space in the yard but the authority failed. Several thousand containers are now piled up on the port yard.

Shipping experts, on the other hand, observe that the port situation would not improve unless stuffing of containers inside the port is stopped.

"Nowhere in the world, container is stuffed inside the port," said an expert.

The feeder service operators, however, rejected any restrictions on the ships' calling. "The allegation of ships coming with lower capacity is baseless," said Jamal Uddin Qader Chowdhury, managing director of QC Container Ltd, a leading feeder operator.

"The north bound ships carrying import items never come with lower capacity," he said. But many ships sail from Chittagong with less number of containers due to lack of adequate export items as the country's export and import ratio is 30 and 70 per cent.

"If the port authority imposes any such restrictions, the ships will avoid Chittagong port and it will have a negative impact on the country's image," he said.

Diverting some ships to Mongla seaport would increase the freight of the goods, he said, adding that the exporters and importers normally designate Chittagong as the port of entry and exit in their L/C and so, the ship operators can not divert the ship to any other port at will.

With only three berthing spaces for container handling, the Mongla port is not capable of handling more than three ships at a time, he said.

As the Mongla port is located more than 100 kilometre inside and ships have to wait at least 12 hours for high tide before starting journey of entry from the estuary, it will also not reduce the turn around time with connecting ports, he added.