Readymade garment exporters (RMG) in Bangladesh are fretting over the current political unrest in Sri Lanka, as around 40% of Bangladesh shipments use Colombo Port for connecting the US and European markets.
Curfew is in force across Sri Lanka after mobs burned down homes belonging to the ruling Rajapaksa family members amid mounting anger following an acute economic crisis.
Matters have exacerbated as navigation of ships or the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of vessels from one place to another remained suspended from the port.
Shipping executives said that more than 10 feeder vessels either remained stuck or on the way to Colombo carrying export goods.
After the arrival of the Bangladesh-made cargoes at the port, they connect with mother vessels to reach the US and European ports. But the executives refused to reveal further details.
Earlier, the vessels operating between Chittagong and Colombo faced delays when the fuel crisis began in the island country a few months back.
At that time the length of a voyage on the Chittagong-Colombo-Chittagong route increased to 10-11 days instead of the normal eight days.
Sri Lanka is now hit hard by large-scale fuel shortage. This is putting pressure on container lines, as loading and unloading activities depend on fuel supply with lorries.
The Sri Lankan economy has been under constant stress ever since the onset of the pandemic, as it crippled tourism – one of the highest earning sectors of the island.
Md Ashikur Rahman (Tuhin), managing director of TAD Group, said that the introduction of direct vessels to the EU-based ports could be a sustainable solution to the unwanted situations caused by the congestion and other problems at the transhipment ports.
Moreover, the direct shipping services also may help to bring down the freight cost to half from the current level, he further said.
Rahman also said that Bangladesh needs a number of large-sized direct vessels to make export-import trades smoother.
“However, the businesses will have to wait for the Bay Terminal to become operational as the current depths of the country’s ports do not allow large vessels,” he added.
Recently, Italian freight forwarder company Rif Line and its subsidiary Kalypso Compagnia di Navigazione have introduced a direct vessel service from Chittagong to Europe with two vessels: Songa Cheetah and Cape Flores.
He also mentioned that after the introduction of the direct shipping line, a number of local companies have already started discussions with international shipping companies to launch charter ships for direct operations with European ports.