The Financial Express

Container growth marks rapid Bangladesh trade rebound

| Updated: January 10, 2022 17:16:33

File photo used only for representation File photo used only for representation

Overall container handling by 17 private depots grew nearly 16 per cent in the past year to cross 1.0 million TEUs for the first time, amid a "faster-than-foreseen rebound" in Bangladesh's foreign trade.

The growth momentum still persists, signifying the "quickest rebound of the country's external trade amid an all-time-high freight rise", said sources in the container-handling-trade circles.

According to them, the 16-per cent growth in the immediate-past year was compared to previous year's and the volume crossed 1.0 million TEUs for the first time since inception of the inland container depot (ICD) business in the late 1980s.

The growth in the depots' operations is seen sensitive to the country's economic growth as it is at least 3.0 percentage points higher than the Chittagong Port container handling in the year under review.

Their export-cargo handling grew more than 25 per cent in 2021 in a robust rebound after the opening up of the economies in Europe and North America. Import handling shows a negative growth by nearly 2.3 per cent. But, the sources say, import handling by the depots is not national representative as it handles around 25 per cent of all imports.

The depots, also called dry ports, handled a total of 709,196 TEUs of exports while imports just 303,016 TEUs in 2021.

"This is a charisma as we grew more than 25 per cent amid over 500-per cent freight hike," says Nurul Qayyum Khan, managing director at QNS, a depot in Chattogram, and president at BICDA.

Credit goes to all stakeholders, including the apparel makers who constitute the single-largest export sector in the country.

"We thought it may be at best break-even level. But we saw in few months it was 30-per cent up," Mr Khan told the FE.

The 17 depots handle almost cent-percent exports of Bangladesh. They have been contributing much to the improvement in port efficiency.

Earlier, export procedures used to complete inside the Chittagong Port premises, and such activity had overall negative impact on the port efficiency. Now export stuffing is made at the depots, which means the port activity has widened following operations of the inland container depots.

In the meantime, some forwarders predict that the growth momentum still persists in January and will go on at least few months more despite the onslaught by Omicron variant of the pandemic.

"Export buoyancy will continue few months more as our marketing team getting huge bookings," says the CEO at a leading forwarding firm.

However, of the 17 depots, KDS depot handled more than 100,000 TEUs of exports in the year followed by SAPL (E&W).

HSATCY depot handled the lowest number of exports in 2021 at 544 TEUs.

On the import front, Portlink handled the biggest number of containers of over 72000 TEUs.

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