There are reports that users of the country's second major seaport, Mongla, are not happy with the alleged delays in clearing of the consignments lying at the port. What is worrying is that the businesses and the clearing and forwarding agents concerned have even warned of agitation unless the situation improved. As it could be gathered, the consignees are pointing a finger especially at the customs intelligence wing of the port as the latter is taking, what they claimed, inordinately long time, from 15 to 20 days, before issuing clearance certificate for consignments. The same task, as it could be learnt, was possible to be completed within three to four days in the past. At this point, the question that naturally arises is what has happened in the meanwhile that caused the customs to take more time than usual to complete its job of checking the goods before issuing 'no objection certificates' or NOCs, pertaining to them? Needless to say, such delays, if they take place, are apt to add to various charges including shipping and store rents thereby leading to higher market price of the goods so imported.
However, the Mongla Port customs commissioner was reportedly holding quite a different view of the situation blaming the delays rather on the consignees themselves, referring to the sluggish market condition resulting in some importers' reluctance to have their goods released from the port in time. Imported cars waiting for long to be cleared from the port were cited as an example as their market is dull due to the prevailing pandemic situation. There is clearly a disconnect between the conflicting stances of businesses and the port's customs officials on the issue, a problem that needs to be resolved in the interest of business as well as smooth functioning of the port.
Though the customs authority of the Mongla port is defending its position on the ground that it helped them to collect a huge sum of customs duty, one fails to understand why the same should not be the case while there is an environment of mutual understanding and trust between all stakeholders concerned at the port? Such untoward developments are no doubt disconcerting at a time when the country's economy is gradually trying to regain its pace after the punishing months of disruption caused by the lockdowns. And that is more so when one considers the port's impressive container-handling record during the immediate past fiscal year (2019-20). Actually, the port, despite the lockdown-induced slowdowns, had handled, as the reports go, close to 60, 000 TEUs (Twenty Equivalent Units) of containers as well as some 11 million tonnes of goods earning a profit of more than Tk 1.15 billion for the country.
In fact, a seaport's reputation goes hand in hand with the agility and speed with which it can handle the cargoes arriving at or leaving its jetties. And the present state of stalemate at the Mongla port does not definitely speak well of it in that regard. Hopefully, those running the affairs of the Mongla port are alive to the seriousness of the matter. Under the circumstances, both the customs authorities and the aggrieved parties at the port should sit together and hold talks to sort out their differences in the interest of maintaining peace and a helpful working atmosphere at the port.