Facing pressure from Bangladesh regulators, container lines have agreed to waive storage fees in Chittagong accrued between March 26 and May 30, when the majority of the country was shut down due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
Cargo owners argue this will help the container backlog at marine terminals, but some shipping agents disagree. The Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAA), which represents container lines, this week advised its members to comply with the instructions from the Department of Shipping (DoS).
Under normal circumstances, the shipping lines offer 14 to 21 days of so-called free time for containers after they are discharged, and storage fees run between $5 to $10 daily after the time expires.
“Now, therefore, in order to maintain proper supply lines at the Bangladesh seaports, the shipping lines are hereby directed not to impose any container detention/demurrage charge on import and export shipments …” Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, DoS director general, wrote in an advisory this week.
Importers have been refusing to pick up containers for various reasons, including what they consider unreasonable demurrage charges levied by carriers, some of which equate to the value of the shipment itself, Mahbubul Alam, president of Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told JOC.com. One unidentified importer faces $46,000 in storage fees for 22 containers of goods worth a total of $200,000, he said.
“He has other expenses, government duties, bank charges, etc. How will he make a profit and survive?” asked Alam, who added that port congestion is easing as importers collect containers from marine terminals.
Ahsanul Huq Chowdhury, BSAA chairman, said he is skeptical about whether the detention charge waiver will help lower congestion at the Chittagong port yard, but that agents have been advised to comply with the DoS order.