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Growing apparel exports choke Chittagong ICDs

Additional handling orders for RMG export boxes are clogging Chittagong’s ICDs.
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Additional handling orders for export boxes are clogging Chittagong’s inland container depots (ICDs), and forwarders are routinely faced with increased demand to take more. Due to Bangladesh’s relative reliability, exporters ascribe the increase in demand to a shift away from competitive countries in the garment industry, such as China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Most of the large freight forwarders have asked whether the off-docks can handle extra work orders in the last few weeks, according to depot owners.

Ruhul Amin Sikder, secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association, said representatives of top forwarders like Maersk Logistics, Kuehne + Nagel, Expo Freight, DHL and Nippon Express had been visiting the depots to check their ability to take more containers.

“All forwarders are saying they have additional volumes,” he said, adding however, that most depots did not have the capacity for more. As an example, Mr Sikder said, Portlink Logistics Centre last month handled record numbers of export containers, due to additional volumes.

“Usually the depot handles more import boxes than export,” he said.

Data shows that last month Chittagong-based depots handled 70,773 teu of export containers, the highest ever for a single month. In February, they handled 62,466 teu and in January, 67,147 teu, each month registering growth. The ICDs handle almost all the outbound containers before they are boarded on vessels.

President of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Faruque Hassan said factories were now busy with orders as buyer confidence in local manufacturers had grown significantly.

“We supplied apparel to buyers during the pandemic days, even after incurring losses,” he said.

Meanwhile, Chittagong Port Authority has now fully digitised its container release system. Since 1 April, all clearing and forwarding agents and port users must submit delivery orders electronically, it’s a 10-minute process to issue a release order – even at weekends. “The electronic delivery order system has made cargo release much faster,” said port chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Shahjahan.

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