Lack of co-ordination between Mongla Port Authority (MPA) and Mongla Customs House (MCH) was the main reason of chronic stagnation at the country's second largest port. The conflicting attitude between two vital organs surfaced even during a visit of a high powered team led by the chairman of National Board of Revenue (NBR).
The team directed the officials concern of the two organizations to bridge the gap and resolve the businessmen's problems immediately. According to the MCH data, the number of container ships and number of containers declined by 29 percent and 35 percent respectively in July-February period of the current fiscal year 2016-2017 compared to that of the same period of the last year. Import of high duty goods also dropped by 83 percent, the data showed.
The data also showed that 800 containers are stuck at the port for disposal. The NBR chairman Md Nojibur Rahman along with other members of the high powered committee made the visit and asked MPA and MCH officials to hold weekly meeting with all stake holders and take necessary steps.
The committee 'making effective Mongla Port and Customs' is also going to hold a meeting at Finance Ministry on Monday in this regard. During the visit, the committee organized two separate meetings with the stakeholders at Mongla and Bagerhat, where the businesses and policymakers urged the government to take immediate steps to make the port vibrant and attractive to traders and utilize the potentials of the port.
MCH commissioner Al Amin Pramanik, Khulna Income tax commissioner Iqbal Hossain and VAT commissioner KM Ohidul Alam made the presentations on their respective activities. Member of the Parliament (MP) Mir Shawkat Ali Badsha said that Mongla port should be vibrant.
The authorities including the NBR should take steps in this connection, he said. Leaders of Bagerhat Chamber of Commerce and Industry demanded for dredging the river so that bigger ships can enter the port area all through the years. Mongla Customs Clearing and Forwarding Agents Association President Sultan Hossain Khan said that bigger vessels could not come at port area due to lack of dredging at Posur River.
He also blamed the entrepreneurs of Khulna region for not importing the capital machinery through the port. "Rather they (Khulna based traders) use Chittagong port, due to harassment by customs officials. MPA chairman Commodore AKM Faruque Hasan said capacity of Mongla port would be increased at least by five times once the ongoing development projects are completed.
Currently, only 50-60 percent of the capacity can be used due to lack of ship and containers, he said. Low depth in the channel is the major factor for declining numbers of containers, he said. He urged for continuous dredging, capacity improvement and reduction of cost of doing business for the purpose.
NBR chairman Md Nojibur Rahman at the meeting instructed the customs house and port authorities to take coordinated efforts to solve the problems within their jurisdictions The NBR will sit with the ministries having involvement with development of the port to make it attractive to users. He also instructed the customs authority for quick disposal of motor vehicles and containers remained stuck at the port.
-Shariful Islam, Back from Mongla