Amid container crisis, Bangladeshi exporters seek government intervention

Exporters in Bangladesh are struggling as ports across the country are facing a shortage of empty containers, which is hampering their shipments to markets in the US and the European Union

Jul 08, 2021
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Bangladeshi exporters

Exporters in Bangladesh are struggling as ports across the country are facing a shortage of empty containers, which is hampering their shipments to markets in the US and the European Union. They have now sought intervention from the government to resolve the crisis. 

Exporters and export-orientated manufacturers on Wednesday held a meeting with senior government officials, seeking their assistance to resolve the issues, including shortage of empty containers and vessels, congestion at regional transshipment ports. 

The readymade garment (RMG) industry-- the backbone of Bangladesh’s export market-- is suffering the most from the crisis. Their shipments are stuck; They fear cancellation of orders. 

In 2019, Bangladesh’s RMG exports crossed a whopping $34 billion. However, it came down to around $27 billion in 2020--mainly due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19. Yet, in comparison to the other countries, Bangladesh was lauded for its efforts to sustain the industry in extremely challenging conditions. 

Now, in the face of this container crisis, the revival and growth will take a hit if the problem persists for long.

The slow unloading of containers in the US and Europe is mainly driving the crisis as a result empty vessels are taking too much time to return to Bangladesh. The lack of coordination between the shipping companies, export agents, and exporters at ports in the country is further deepening the crisis. 

The problem has been there for the last two months due to the global container crisis, said the officials of Chittagong port, the country’s main seaport. This, they claim, has been partly brought on by the excess congestion in many Asian transshipment ports, especially Singapore, Port Klang in Malaysia, and Colombo in Sri Lanka.

Several inland container depots are failing to transfer the products to the ports due to the acute shortage of containers. This problem has been amplified by delays in getting space on mother vessels in the transshipment ports, a report in Dhaka Tribune said. 

As the problem is global, there is nothing much Bangladesh officials can do about it. Those who attended the Wednesday meeting say the government will try to at least enhance coordination between exporters, shipping firms, and agents. (SAM)