Traders importing goods round-the-clock through Benapole port have alleged that the port authorities are adding overtime, holiday and nightshift charges to their shipment costs.
The government took the decision to keep Benapole port open for 24 hours in order to speed up export and import activities and reduce congestion.
The traders have claimed that since it is a government order, these charges should not be applicable on imported commodities.
The port authorities said if they do not include these charges, they would be discouraged to work 24 hours a day, therefore hampering the government’s target.
Traders claimed that the port authorities were adding an overtime charge of Tk500 every day after 5pm. In addition, the traders have to pay Tk1,257 for holiday charge and Tk718 for night-shift charge.
Traders have also alleged that the port authorities, when working after 5pm, are charging around Tk3,000 as a port shipment cost instead of the actual fee of Tk500.
Many importers are reluctant to work due to such port charges.
Nearly 90% of Bangladesh and India’s land trade flows through Benapole Port, and goods worth around Tk20 crore are being imported and exported annually.
According to Benapole Clearing & Forwarding (C&F) agents and port users, at least 800-1,000 trucks carrying goods from India must enter Bangladesh through Benapole in order to get full benefit of the round the clock operation.
However, due to the lack of infrastructural development and lack of space, it would not be possible to keep all the goods inside the port.
The current capacity at Benapole Port is 30,000-35,000 tons only, even though up to 200,000 tons arrives there.
In addition, the lack of functioning cranes and forklifts is also hampering the loading and unloading works.
The C&F leaders have called for these problems to be resolved “immediately”.
Shahabuddin, port affairs secretary of Benapole’s C&F Association, said these additional charges would discourage traders to work on holidays and it would also hamper the government’s revenue collection target.
Benapole C&F Association President Mofizur Rahman Sajan said: “The government’s repeated initiatives to keep the port active are failing due to the extra charges collected by the port authorities.”
He said they had sent letters to the ministry concerned and other offices seeking a solution to the matter.
Importer and former president of the Jessore Chamber of Commerce Mizanur Rahman Khan said: “The decision to keep Benapole Port open for 24 hours is a positive initiative but it is not acceptable to receive extra charges on the imported goods on holidays.”
Motiar Rahman, land port subcommittee chairman of India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, said: “The government’s new initiative will not work if the port authorities do not stop charging for holidays, overtime and night-shifts. The importers expressed dissatisfaction in giving these charges in Benapole when India does not charge in Petrapole Port.”
Benapole Port Deputy Director Md Rezaul Karim said: “The government has ordered us to keep the port open 24 hours throughout the week. But there are no instructions about overtime, holiday or nightshift charges. If the government decides to waive these charges, we will not impose the charges.”