The Chittagong port handled a record volume of containers -- 2,30,725 TEUs -- in August, which surpassed the previous record made in March this year.
The country's prime maritime port has broken the past record of container handling in a single month, which was 2,18,878 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers, a senior official of the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) said on Monday.
This news has brought a welcome sense of relief to the port's stakeholders who have been calling for ramping up cargo handling capacity in the backdrop of enhanced imports and exports through the port that handles about 92 per cent of the sea-borne cargo of the country.
Sources in the Chittagong Customs House, however, said there was virtually no work in the Customs House during the three-day Eid-ul-Azha vacation, although they made preparations to extend their cooperation to the staffs of the Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents.
The revenue officers and their seniors came to the office to accomplish assessment and other related activities, but the service receivers did not turn up as expected, the sources said.
Activities in the port were restricted to only delivery of cargoes in absence of the service receivers who went out of the city to celebrate the festival.
CPA Member (Admin and Planning) Zafar Alam said the record volume of container handling was due to installation of new equipment, expansion of the yard area, increased number of officials recently posted in the Chittagong Customs House, fast scanning of containers and finally the special directive of the Prime Minister to keep the Customs House and port activities operational round the clock.
The Port Authority with its existing handling capacity has been putting in its best efforts to improve its performance in the days to come, he added.
In recent weeks, the businesses and trade body leaders on different occasions voiced their concern that they were facing problems in getting imported raw materials delivered in time. They also complained of delay in shipment schedule due to congestion of import containers and ships, resulting from shortage of handling equipment, especially gantry cranes, and yard space constraints.
The businesses also feared collapse in the port situation ahead of Eid vacation, as port activities would be suspended for at least three days of public holiday.
On Thursday, the last working day before the vacation, there were 5,934 TEUs off-dock bound containers in the port while 16 container vessels were waiting at the outer anchorage for getting berth in the port jetties.
On the day, 11 container vessels were engaged in off-loading cargo in the jetties. Besides, 33 vessels were floating at the outer anchorage with imported general cargoes. Of them, 11 mother vessels were active in lightering cargoes like sugar, salt and cement clinker at the outer anchorage.
Congestion of containerised and bulk cargoes has been a regular feature during two Eid vacations every year mainly due to long absence of staffs and officers of the C&F agents, shipping agents, importers and exporters and other port users.
As a result, the stakeholders and Chittagong Port Authority have to face trouble giving delivery of imported cargoes to the consignees and those (37 items) bound for inland container depots in time, leading to port congestion.
But this time, Eid vacation was comparatively short. The port congestion was massive during the last Eid-ul-Fitr vacation and the situation aggravated due to the month-long fasting (Ramadan) and the surge in pre-budget imports.