Bangladeshi exporters are hit by global container crisis

According to officials at the Port of Chittagong, this was in part due to excessive congestion at many Asian transshipment ports, which means that containers that carried cargo for export to foreign countries have yet to return. for another shipment

Bangladesh’s exports have suffered unexpected delays over the past two months due to the global container crisis.

According to officials at the Port of Chittagong, this was in part caused by excessive congestion at many Asian transshipment ports, particularly Singapore, Port Klang in Malaysia and Colombo in Sri Lanka.

This means that the containers that transported goods for export to foreign countries have not yet returned for another shipment.

As a result, inland container depots (ICDs) in Bangladesh fail to transfer products to ports due to the severe shortage of containers. This problem has been magnified by delays in securing space on motherships at transshipment ports, port insiders said.

ICD authorities said there were no reservations available on mother ships for Europe and America from the three major transshipment ports due to vessel congestion in the ports of these export destinations.

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Ships sailing to Europe are going through the biggest crisis as the major shipping lines of the main operators (MLOs) do not take reservations for the continent due to congestion in their own ports, they added.

Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association (BICDA), said the global shipping industry has been experiencing this problem since November last year as supply chains have been disrupted by the Covid pandemic -19.

“There are not enough containers to load the goods, and also, not enough space in the motherships to ship the containers to export destinations,” he added.

Container exports to Europe and America from Asian countries have increased compared to the end of last year, but the import of luxury goods from these countries has declined due to the pandemic , he added.

“It also reduced the rate of return of containers from Europe and America,” he added.

In addition, congestion in many ports in these countries gives more time for the return of containers. This has created an imbalance in the cyclical business of container shipping, Sikder added.

According to the authorities, a total of 14,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent) of export containers are in the ICDs against a capacity of 8,000 TEUs, resulting in overcrowding. And ICDs still face an additional 6,000 TEUs shortage of empty containers for goods to be exported.

The capacity of the 19 private containers outside the port quayside is approximately 77,700 TEUs. But the goods have already exceeded this capacity, disrupting regular activities.

Exporters typically keep their cargoes in ICDs, which are then held at container freight stations. Then, freight forwarders reserve space for containers in feeder and mother ships for shipment and submit the cargo loading plan (CLP) to ICDs.

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But now the export of Bangladeshi clothing and other goods to the mother ship at major transshipment ports has become uncertain as MLOs have ceased container bookings.

Dhaka Tribune spotted a long line of covered trucks and vans carrying cargo from different parts of the country facing delays in unloading cargo at Chittagong port.

In addition, the lack of feeder vessels is also evident.

Previously, feeder vessels loaded with 1,200 containers were available, but now small feeders carrying 700 to 800 containers are not easy to find, port officials said.

Container and freight charges have also increased since last January, port officials said.

Khairul Alam Suzan, director of ports and customs for the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, said the crisis was caused by a major disruption in shipping schedules at a transshipment point for Covid-19.

“The schedule for motherships is not available. Where previously at least three mother ship schedules were available, there is now only one, ”he added.

The ready-to-wear industry (RMG) suffers the most from this crisis as most of the export containers are clothing products.

Besides RMG products, other goods are also stuck in many shipments, leaving exporters worried about timely shipments and fear of order cancellations.

Syed Nazul Islam, first vice president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), told Dhaka Tribune that cargo ships cannot reserve space on motherships and there is also a shortage of suitable containers.

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“Buyers are likely to ask for discounts if they can’t get the products to their stores on time. We have decided to let our buyers forum know about it. We have already started to come under pressure from our foreign buyers, ”he added.

He also said hundreds of trucks are stranded and unable to unload the goods. The truck drivers charge them again demurrage fees per day.

“We are in talks with the relevant agencies on how to overcome the global crisis. This delay in shipping will have a long term impact on exports from Bangladesh, ”he also said.

Meanwhile, a source from Chittagong Port assured that there are 26,336 unused empty containers in 19 private ICDs, but only a few of them are capable of exporting goods.

The MLOs that mainly carry cargo from Bangladesh are Hapag-Lloyd, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Hyundai Merchant Marine, CMA CGM, and Maersk Line, but unused containers are from other companies, like OOCL.

Officials from several shipping companies have said most of them are unwilling to reserve their containers due to an acute lack of space in mother ships at transshipment ports and increasing volumes. freight charges.