Importers abusing overstay penalty remission facility
Powerful syndicate compounding container congestion at Ctg port
Jasim Uddin Haroon
Waiving of penal charges by the CPA on overstaying of both container and general cargoes at the port yards is encouraging importers to make inordinate delays in releasing their consignment of goods.
This practice has become rampant and is contributing to the ever-worsening container congestion at the country's main seaport.
The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is allowing wholesale exemption of penalties violating the relevant laws framed a year back after getting a green signal from the shipping ministry.
Port sources alleged that a powerful syndicate, in connivance with some corrupt CPA officials and the concerned ministry, is regularly giving indulgence to such unhealthy practices by pocketing a good amount of money.
"We're doing this through influential high-ups", one member of such an organised syndicate bluntly admitted.
Sources claimed that the syndicate was so well connected that it could drop between 60 per cent and 100 per cent of penal charges depending on the commission it gets from the importers.
Admitting such illegal practices, Member (Harbour and Marine) Captain M Quamrul Hossain told the FE that they were offering doing away with those penal charges as approved by the ministry.
"I think this practice of exemption is playing an important role in quick release of items, which have been stored for long," he argued.
Port insiders, however, said that the CPA framed a law a year back to encourage importers and other port users to release their products within the 'free-stay' time.
Currently, all containers and general cargoes at the Chittagong port enjoy free-stay time of four days like at other international maritime ports across the world.
According to the CPA rule, each 20 feet container is to enjoy four days of free storage facilities of containers and cargoes. From the fifth day onwards, such containers have to pay US$ 1.5, after one week the rate is to go up to $ 3.0 and for a period beyond one week up to 21 days the required penalty payment is up to $ 18.
"We will charge $18 each day for a 20-feet container from the 22nd day onwards", said another official.
The port has been experiencing tremendous growth of containers in recent months vis-à-vis inadequate handling capacity and space.
"Such illegal practices by the CPA are indirectly encouraging importers to leave their containers unmoved, creating a severe container congestion in the port", said a leader of Chittagong Customs clearing and forwarding on condition of anonymity.