CHATTOGRAM: The importers are held hostage by a cargo handling syndicate in unloading imported goods from big vessels to lighter vessels at the outer anchorage of Chittagong port.
This syndicate, however, has been controlling the business for years having no necessary handling equipment. So importers, factories of large industrial groups and general consumers of the country are paying for it.
Sources said large vessels, known as mother vessels, loaded with imported items, including wheat, fertilizer, cement clinker, stone and coal, cannot anchor at the main jetty of the port due to low water level. For this reason, mother vessels need to wait at the outer anchorage. The lighter vessels are used in lightering cargoes from big vessels at the outer anchorage and transporting cargoes to different destinations across the country. The task of unloading goods from the big ships to lighter vessels is being controlled by the ship handling syndicate.
Before 2007, some 56 licensed stevedore companies used to perform the task of ship handling. To speed up activities, stevedore companies were divided into berth operators an ship handling operators through scrutiny. On March of 2015, the Chattogram Port Authority gave approval to 31 companies for ship handling. Of those, 26 companies handle goods of various industrial groups, importers. The remaining 5 companies only handle their own imported products. The importers as and industrial groups are suffering a lot as the syndicate of 26 companies charges extra and makes delay.
They don't even finish a three-day work within a week. As a result, ship handling cost increases due to extra payment for workers, foods, boat rent, grab, pay-loader hires and larger ship’s rent.
Recently, the ship handling operator's bill was reviewed and it was found that to unloading 59,000 tones of stones, an importer had to pay additional Tk 6.5 lakh to workers apart from others extra expenses for pay-loader hire charge, grab hire charge, fuel cost, lighter rents, breakdown hire, boat hire, gear cost, ship damage, tax and CPA labour welfare fund. The ship handling company made 75 percent profit spending only 24 percent.
The importer concerned and industry owners demanded that the cargo handing should be made open to survive in the open market economy.
Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Mahbubul Alam told Banglanews: “Anyone who works in ship handling must do it efficiently and promptly. They must have the equipment and logistics support to do the work. Costs for using port should be reduced, so that users are not affected.”
AKM Shamsuzzaman, president of Bangladesh Ship Handling and Berth Operators’ Association, an organisation of firms engaged in the unloading of goods, told Banglanews: “There is no scope to make extra profits in ship handling. According to the product category, the work rate is fixed at the meeting of the Chattogram Port Authority, Chattogram Chamber and Ship Handling Association.”
BDST: 2028 HRS, NOV 25, 2019