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Congestion at Chittagong Port Worsens Each Day

Setbacks are raining down on Bangladesh ports, it seems.

Earlier this month, Cyclone Roanu roiled the port of Chittagong in southeastern Bangladesh, breaking two embankments and blocking ships from docking and unloading in-transit textile and apparel products.

Before that, a Bangladesh Water Transport Workers’ Federation (BWTWF) and Bangladesh Shipping Workers’ Federation (BSWF) strike in April created a backlog the ports were slow to recuperate from.

Conditions at Chittagong’s ports appear to be worsening by the day, and now, with Ramadan—which has already reduced port productivity time by six hours—and monsoon season underway, the delays are showing no sign of slowing.

In a note to customers, logistics solutions company Seagold Limited said Tuesday it’s taking as much as five days before container vessels can even pull into port to load or unload goods.

Moreover, as Seagold explained, “Inefficiency (due to ageing/overuse) and inadequacy of container handling equipment at the port CYs [container yards] is making it difficult for all kinds of container handling operations—import receiving, import delivery to consignees, import delivery to off docks for those boxes to be delivered from off docks, empty removal to empty CYs—is grossly impacting upon vessel operations.”

As of June 10, Seagold reported having 7,325 empty containers lying in port (only 18 were cleared from the day before), taking up necessary space for new ships to dock.

Bangladesh’s Chittagong port is suffering from what’s being called an “acute” shortage of container storage space, especially for 40-foot units, and that has only slowed the loading and unloading process and added to delays.

On Tuesday, Seagold said CPA isn’t allowing cancellation of sailing unless import boxes are still on board.

“With a slow discharging rate causing a late start up to loading, as berth operators are hell bent upon completing discharge in racing for available space—this in turn makes it difficult to complete vessels’ operations within the 72-hour time CPA allows a vessel, thus compelling the vessels to sometimes shut out and sail (cut and run),” Seagold reported.

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Last week, the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) reportedly said, in an effort to curb the congestion, that vessels up to 1,400 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) will have 48 hours to stay at the port and will be forced to leave after that whether or not cargo handling has been completed. Vessels with up to 1,800 TEUs or more will have 72 hours at the port.

Seagold said the terminal is facing “severe congestion” and could not estimate when this situation could be improved.