The shipping ministry has requested the National Board of Revenue to resume full-fledged customs assessment activities at the Chattogram Customs House during the general holiday to clear container congestion at the country’s premier seaport.
Regular customs assessment is also important for speedy release of essential goods required for the month of Ramadan, the ministry said.
The shipping ministry, in a letter sent to NBR chairman Abu Hena Md Rahamatul Muneem on Monday, made the request amid the rising container congestion at the Chattogram seaport as assessment of only a limited number of products was being conducted.
Since the general holiday took effect, all customs houses and land customs stations in the country had been conducting assessment of a limited number of products, including essential goods, emergency medical equipment and other related services, industrial raw materials and goods imported by public, private and autonomous bodies, as per the instructions given by the NBR.
Following the shipping ministry’s request, the NBR on Tuesday included in the list few more products such as capital machinery and spare parts, agriculture machinery and equipment, feeds and ingredients for poultry, dairy and fishery sectors and goods imported under the diplomatic arrangements.
The NBR also asked the customs houses to take measures to ensure that the export procedures and activities at the export processing zones remained uninterrupted during the period.
The government announced the general holiday on March 24 which was later extended up to April 14 to combat the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
In the letter, the ministry said that the Chattogram port had already been experiencing a congestion of imported containers as the customs house was conducting assessment of some specific products.
The number of unreleased containers will increase in the coming days as import of essential commodities will rise ahead of Ramadan, it said.
A total of 45,370 containers are now waiting at the port yard for customs assessment, the letter said.
‘It will be difficult to release even the emergency products if customs assessment continues to be conducted for a limited number of products,’ the ministry said.
So, keeping in mind the existing container congestion at the port and possible rise in import of essential products ahead of Ramadan, the NBR should take the necessary steps to resume assessment of all imported products as is done under normal circumstances, it urged.
The ministry also requested the revenue board to expedite the release of imported goods from the port.
The revenue board should also ensure adequate manpower for the purpose.
A total of 18,40,672 tonnes of products were released from the port between March 27 and April 4 this year.
Some 24,221 twenty equivalent unit or TEU import containers are in storage at the port yard while 23,169 TEU export containers were released from the port, according to the data of the Chittagong Port Authority.
Customs officials said that only about 25 per cent of its regular staff members were on duty at the Chattogram Customs House as the NBR had asked to involve the minimum number of manpower during the holiday as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
They also said that many importers were also facing problems in having goods released from the port due to a shortage of manpower and transport. The NBR high-ups will take a decision about the ministry’s request after assessing its necessity, they added.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Miscellany