Shipping Minister pledges quick port turnaround

Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan yesterday promised immediate steps to uplift the efficiency and capacity of Chittagong port in 15 days.

Speaking at a roundtable in the port city, Khan also said a gazette on the formation of an advisory council on Chittagong port should come out within a week. The roundtable focussed on “dynamism of the port in the context of global trade”.

Business leaders who took part in the discussion criticised the minister, the parliamentary standing committee on shipping ministry and the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) for the declining productivity and mismanagement of the port.

They demanded that the parliamentary committee stop interfering with the daily business of the port.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), Shippers Council of Bangladesh and local newspaper Purbokone co-organised the roundtable, chaired by BGMEA President Abdus Salam Murshedy.

The stakeholders alleged that the port's efficiency fell since the CPA started supervising cargo handling at 12 general cargo berths on May 10, for the first time in its 123 years' history.

Other major problems identified by them included increased turnaround time of container vessels.

In his speech, the shipping minister denied the allegation of interference by the parliamentary standing committee and said the ministry only seeks suggestions from the committee.

Khan said steps for the appointment of operators for container handling at the six general cargo berths would be taken in 15 days.

Promising meetings with port users and stakeholders every month, the minister sought cooperation from them so that they could solve all problems together.

Murshedy said the malfunctioning port is affecting the readymade garment sector, already riddled with problems such as global recession, price hike of raw materials, power and energy crises and labour unrest.

Due to long delays in the release of consignments at the port, many exporters had exported their goods by air, which increased the cost of business, he said.

BGMEA First Vice President Nasiruddin Chowdhury moderated the roundtable.

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