The Financial Express

Police favour e-sealing for goods containers

Businesses fear cost escalation

| Updated: August 25, 2019 14:04:05

Police favour e-sealing for goods containers

Law enforcement agencies favour application of the digital lock rules, but businesses oppose the system fearing cost escalation.

The digital system allows exporters to self-guard their containers using electronic seals.

In June last year, the National Board of Revenue (NBR) issued the "Electronic Seal and Lock Service Rules 2018," aiming to ensure security of export-import containerised goods while transporting those to and from the Chittagong port and the nearest inland container depots (ICDs).

This was preceded by a regulatory order aimed at introducing the system in all the import and export containers, covered vans and trucks to check the pilferage of goods on their way to and from the port and inland deports.

Businesses strongly opposed the introduction of the e-seal and lock system, citing the increase in cost of doing business and the delay in cargo handling in the port.

The Chittagong Port Authority signed an agreement with Alif Corporation to render the service. The port users will be charged Tk 600 per unit for the service either for containers or any vehicles.

But the execution of the system hit bump after opposition from the port users.

Even in December 2017, the effort to launch the service in presence of then finance minister AMA Muhith did not take off amid opposition from businesses.

Finance ministry officials told the FE the Alif Corporation in February this year requested the ministry of home affairs to take necessary steps for the execution of lock system.

Given the situation, the home ministry asked the special branch of police to investigate the matter and submit a report on causes that delayed the implementation.

The special branch recently submitted its report to the home ministry, which was later forwarded to the finance ministry.

The report favoured the need for introducing the digital technology, saying it would secure export-import goods and avoid revenue leakage.

The report noted unless the e-lock system is introduced there is a possibility that terrorist groups might place explosive device in the containers on their way to inland depots and the port and blast those at port or while in vessels.

Besides, it said due to the weakness in traditional lock system illegal goods can be smuggled and money can be laundered.

The report said the implementation of the rules is responsibility of the NBR and the finance ministry.

The issue is not just involved in the security threat, deterioration of law and order situation, export of illegal goods, and money laundering, the country's image is also associated with it, the report mentioned.

The special branch suggested taking effective steps for the execution of the rules through a coordinated effort of the finance, shipping and commerce ministries, detectives and law enforcement agencies.

Talking to the FE on Friday over telephone, NBR chairman Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan is resolute about enforcing the rules.

But businesses seek services at free of charges.

President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) Mahbubul Alam said businesses would not oppose the system provided the government offers the service free of cost.

"Who is going to pay for the service? Did we ask for it? Did we complain that our goods are lost on the way?" he asked.

Mr Alam, also the chairman of the Port Users Forum, said they would not accept anything, which raises cost of doing business "unnecessarily."


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