Businessmen want army to stay at Ctg port for longer term

Major port users want army’s supervision at the Chittagong Port for a longer term to help improve the port efficiency, which had deteriorated in the recent time due mainly to labour unrest, reports BSS.

Leaders of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) believe the army deployment is inevitable to restore normal operation at the country’s main sea port.

They recommend continuation of army’s supervision until the management gets ready to run and control the port efficiently.

Some leading shipping agents also shared the same view and suggested fruitful discussion among all stakeholders to replace army with an efficient management.

The government deployed army at the Chittagong Port on October 13 to bring the port operation back to normal.

Earlier, the Monitoring Committee on the Port, formed with the port users and initiated by apex trade body CCCI demanded deployment of army to restore smooth port operation.

The normal operation at the port was stalled after dock workers refused to work under the private operators appointed by the authorities. The operators, however, resumed their function at the berths after army deployment.

Port Secretary Forhad Uddin Ahmed said Sunday that military deployment improved the port’s services and average stay of ships at the port decreased to 2-3 days from the previous 4-4.5 days.

BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy said that the garment exporters were happy at the deployment army at the port, this helped restore normal operation.

He said the apparels exporters lost a huge amount of money as they were forced to ship their products by air cargo in the past five months due to severe congestion at the sea port.

Murshedy said air cargo cost the exporters Tk 9 billion (900 crore) during the time, which would be far less for sea cargo. He was hopeful that the congestion would come down with lower turn-around time (TAT) with the presence of army.

Murshedy suggested withdrawal of army from the port only after getting assurance of normal operation from all sides.

CCCI President MA Latif also said that the army should not be withdrawn before ensuring efficient management of the port by the civil administration. He, however, does not see any effective role of the port advisory committee and recommended measures to improve management capacity of the port administration.

Latif said the TAT started coming down four to five hours every day after army deployment at the port.

He expected the TAT would further come down to a tolerable level from current seven to eight days.

DCCI Director Shekil Chowdhury said army deployment was a temporary measure, but was also an urgent step to bring the port operation back to normal track.

He observed that such step is a common practice in many countries including the USA to use army during any urgent needs or natural calamities.

Chowdhury said army should be withdrawn, but only after ensuring normal operation of the port. Otherwise, he said, external trade would be badly affected if port situation does not improve for normal operation.

Senior Vice President of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAS) Kamal Hayat said all the stakeholders should reach an understanding before withdrawing the army.

He said the situation would deteriorate again if the army is called back without any consensus among the birth operators and the dockworkers.

Managing Director of shipping agent Uni Global Business Limited AKM Shahidul Islam said army deployment was a temporary measure, but port should be kept under army control until a permanent solution.

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