Ports and Shipping: Ctg port moves to make import delivery order paperless

On an average working day, 4,000 twenty-foot equivalent units of import containers are delivered from the Chattogram sea port. The port authority handled roughly 4,000 ships in fiscal 2020-21, almost double that of fiscal 2013-14. The photo was taken recently. Photo: Rajib Raihan

In a bid to automate procedures to cut time and business cost, the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) is set to launch an electronic system from next month to enable importers to receive goods somewhat faster.

The document in question set to be digitalised is called “delivery order”, one of many papers used in the import process.

Shipping agents and freight forwarders issue it to importers so that they can receive their consignments from the port.

Businesses have to collect the delivery orders (DOs) by going physically to the offices of the shipping agents or freight forwarders. This takes away a lot of working time, affecting delivery of the imports of businesses.

Initially six leading shipping lines on an experimental basis will start issuing the delivery orders from December 1.

On November 22, the CPA contacted six leading shipping agents — APL Bangladesh PVT Ltd, Maersk Bangladesh Ltd, Continental Traders BD Ltd, Continental Traders, Ocean International Ltd, and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company Bangladesh Ltd.

The port authority said all the shipping agents and freight forwarders would be brought into the system gradually to facilitate trade through the port, which handles over 90 per cent of the country’s over $100 billion annual trade.

On an average, 4,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of import containers are delivered from the Chattogram sea port on a working day.

And the delivery volume is rising in line with increasing imports for raw materials for the export-oriented industries and the domestic market-oriented industries.

The CPA handled roughly 4,000 ships in fiscal 2020-21, almost double that of fiscal 2013-14, according to its data.

The number of containers handled also rose over time.

For import containers, it was 13.8 lakh TEUs in fiscal 2020-21, up 25 per cent from 11 lakh TEUs five years ago.

With the introduction of the digital system, C&F agents would not need to go to the offices of the shipping agents and freight forwarders to collect the DO, which would save significant time, said CPA Secretary Md Omar Faruk.

He said the CPA has created a Terminal Operating System incorporating the EDO module where shipping agents or freight forwarders just need to upload required data to issue the DOs.

Chattogram Customs Clearing and Forwarding (C&F) Agents Association General Secretary Altaf Hossain Bacchu said at present the staff of the C&F agents have to wait three to four hours in queue to get a serial number for submitting documents required to get the DO from the leading shipping agents.

Preferring anonymity, a CPA engineer, engaged in operating the system, said the C&F staff would not need to wait for the serial numbers anymore.

They will be able to submit requisitions from home at any time through the module using their user IDs, and the shipping agents will also be able to upload data onto the system even after office hours, said the official.

Currently, shipping agents or freight forwarders need at least 30 minutes to 40 minutes to prepare a form before issuing a DO, said the engineer, adding that in the online system, it would take only a minute to finalise the process.

Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association Vice President Khairul Alam Sujan said in the current, manually-issued DO, there was a scope for committing fraudulence whereas the online system would curb it.

He hailed the CPA for the step, terming it as a significant progress to get the whole procedure paperless.

Ajmir Hossain Chowdhury, deputy general manager of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company Bangladesh, said initially they would still need some documents to be submitted manually, while the C&F agents would have to make their payments physically.

Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association Director Muntasir Rubayat said C&F agents currently have to pay customs duties and collect bank clearance physically before going to the shipping agents for the DO.

After getting it, there are some tasks that need to be done at the port before the consignments are released, he said.

He underscored the need to link all the parties involved in the whole chain with the online system to get substantial benefits.

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