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Importers fear raw materials crisis as Chittagong-bound containers stranded in Singapore

Some 6,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent unit) of Chittagong- bound containers of COSCO Shipping Lines remained stranded in Singapore caused by severe congestion in the busy transhipment port, sources said.

The increased bookings by COSCO and non-availability of required feeder vessels also created the stockpile of containers, which will need more than a month to clear the backlog by the operator.

The importers will now get there containers much later than the scheduled date and fear a possible crisis of various raw materials and chemicals.

Against this backdrop, the COSCO Europe on Monday through a notification suspended taking Chittagong-bound booking of containers until further notice. In the notification, it “wrongly” cited congestions at the Chittagong port as the reason for booking suspension, which the operator later corrected, saying that the congestion is in place at the transhipment ports.

Rashid Ali, general manager of Continental Traders, the Bangladesh agent of COSCO Shipping Lines, told the FE on Friday that of the total 6,000 TEUs, some 80 per cent containers came from Europe while the rest from China and other countries.

Bangladesh imports machinery, garment accessories, fruits, and scrap steel, among other products, from various European countries.

Mr Ali said the COSCO carries containers to Chittagong by using its three to four vessels and uses feeder vessels from other operators.

“Since we did not get required slot from other vessel operators, it created backlog of containers in Singapore,” he said.

“Our operator had huge bookings of containers recently, which created the stockpile,” he added.

The COSCO Shipping Lines is second-largest carrier of inbound containers to Bangladesh, carrying around 25 per cent of total volume. In case of transporting outbound cargo, its position is the fourth accounting for around 17 per cent of outward containers.

As a major shipping line, Mr Ali said the COSCO transports some 150,000 TEUs of containers to and from Bangladesh.

“Actually there is no congestion at the Chittagong port. The COSCO Europe and we sought apologies to the port authority,” said Mr Ali.

He said COSCO is now aggressively working on clearing the backlog and since new booking would not be taken, the backlog will be cleared in a month.

A representative of another mainline operator in Dhaka said COSCO is a China-based operator, which had huge container booking during the last couple of months when many operators worldwide were lacking required empty containers to carry cargo.

He said COSCO has taken bookings more than its capacity during the period which has caused the stockpile of its containers in the transhipment ports.

“The carrying capacity of Chittagong feeder operators has not increased, for which the stockpile has created,” he added.

The other operators have no such backlog in the transhipment ports, he noted.

First vice president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA) Mohammad Hatem told the FE that garment makers import accessories and dyeing chemicals from countries like Belgium, Italy, Spain and Germany.

“If the COSCO takes a month to carry the stranded containers from Singapore to Chittagong, a crisis of those materials will be created in the country,” he said.
Source: Financial Express

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