The government is set to approve more Inland Container Depots (ICDs) and Inland Container Terminals (ICTs) in the private sector to help ease acute congestion at the Chittagong port, officials said.
The ICDs facilitate quick clearance of FCL (full container load) cargo by allowing un-stuffing and delivery from outside the port area.
The private sector ICTs, mainly located close to Dhaka, help carry goods to seaports through waterways, reducing pressure on highways.
Currently, some 17 private ICDs are situated near Chittagong port. These facilities store selected low-risk imported items and empty containers, conduct customs clearance formalities. They are also allowed to un-stuff and deliver some 37 items.
"Due to increased container jam each year, the Chittagong port area now lacks space to accommodate imported containers resulting in congestion in the port and vessels need additional time in the outer channel," Omar Faruk, secretary of Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), wrote in a recent letter to the ministry of shipping (MoS).
"To help deal with the present congestion in Chittagong port, at least seven or eight more private ICDs are needed," he wrote.
Contacted over telephone, Mr Faruk told the FE an application by AK Khan Company Ltd to set up an ICD within seven kilometres of Chittagong port area is under the scrutiny of the MoS.
Officials said to avoid congestion in port yard presently, no goods stuffing and un-stuffing are allowed inside the port area. Exporters and importers do these in the private ICDs located near the port.
Mr Alamgir Hossain, who imports electronics goods from China, told the FE that due to small number of ICDs compared to increased volume of export-import trade, vehicles need to wait for days outside the depots for loading and unloading of goods.
The delay results in rise in costs of doing business that again lowers competitiveness, he said.
In 2016, the government prepared Inland Container Depot/ Container Freight Station Policy to facilitate capacity and productivity rise in ports, door-to-door delivery of container service, and ease congestion inside the Chittagong port.
Meanwhile, the government is also encouraging to set up the ICTs in private sector so that goods can be easily transported to seaports through waterways avoiding congestion on highways.
Officials said last week, the MoS gave approval for the construction of an ICT by Meghna Group on 15 acres of land in Sonargaon upazila under Narayanganj district.
An ICT, constructed by Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL), has already started functioning.
Rupayan Group has completed construction of another ICT which will start carrying goods through waterways soon.
The state-owned ICT in Pangaon, inaugurated in 2013, is now also carrying containers to and from Chittagong and Dhaka at comparatively low cost.
"Sending containers through waterways to the seaports is both cost-effective and
less time-consuming," manager of Pangaon ICT Ahmedul Karim Chowdhury told the FE.
He said the carrying cost of a twenty foot equivalent unit (TEU) of container to Chittagong from Dhaka is US$99 while by road it may cost between $200 and $300.
Mr Chowdhury said apparently it seems carrying containers by road is less time-consuming as it takes 10 to 16 hours for reaching an off-dock of Chittagong port. But, sending the containers to the port yard from off-docks take several hours.
On the other hand, sending containers from Pangaon ICT in Dhaka directly to Chittagong port yards takes only 16 to 24 hours to be loaded into feeder vessel directly without taking any more time. This is comparatively hassle-free, he pointed out.
Chairman of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) Mozammel Haque told the FE the government is now encouraging private sector investment in ICTs to avoid congestion on highways in carrying goods.
"We now encourage shippers to use waterways in goods transportation. Rivers are being dredged regularly for smooth plying of vessels," he said.
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