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No End in Sight for Chittagong Congestion

Chittagong Bangladesh

Delays and congestion at the port of Chittagong in southeast Bangladesh are disrupting the country’s apparel manufacturers, as ships carrying raw materials are unable to reach the coastal city’s shore.

Loading and unloading of all kinds of goods to and from vessels was suspended at the port on May 21 in advance of Cyclone Roanu, which crossed the coastline later that day at an average speed of 85 kilometers per hour (52 miles per hour), according to Chittagong Met Office. A storm surge of three to four feet above normal tide height followed and broke embankments at two places in the city.

But severe cargo congestion has yet to ease nearly a fortnight after the natural disaster occurred.

In a message to customers this week, MCC Transport (a regional specialist handling all intra-Asia containerized cargo for the Maersk Group) said that all carriers operating in Chittagong Terminal were suffering from a vessel delay of at least four to five days.

One example: an MCC Transport container ship scheduled to arrive on May 19 still had not reached the port by June 2.

The cyclone isn’t the only one to blame for the backlog, however. A strike by the Bangladesh Water Transport Workers’ Federation (BWTWF) and the Bangladesh Shipping Workers’ Federation (BSWF) that took place Apr. 21-26 resulted in lengthy queues of ships in the outer anchorage of Chittagong port. Shipping handlers warned that the unloading of goods would be slow once the standoff ended.

And a lack of infrastructure isn’t helping matters either. Late last month, Am Mahbub Chowdhury, senior vice president of the Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CMCCI), told the Daily Star that the city’s port loses around 25 percent of its operation capacity due to traffic congestion.