Four-and-a-half months after a deadly incident at the BM Container Depot in Chattogram, the customs authorities have granted conditional permission for three months to carry out export services of only readymade garment (RMG) products at the facility.
According to a letter – issued on 24 October – the depot authorities will have to fulfil nine conditions, such as obtaining a no-objection letter from the Chattogram Port Authority, before starting operations.
If the conditions are not complied with, the approval will be scrapped after three months, the customs authorities said in the letter signed by Fyzur Rahman of the Chattogram Customs House.
Other conditions include complying with the conditions of the private off-dock establishment, operation rules and the bonded warehouse licensing rules; ensuring separate yards and sheds for chemical containers; procuring a fire safety plan approved by the fire service directorate and complying with firefighting conditions.
Also, the depot located in Sitakunda will have to bring the entire inland container depot (ICD) under CCTV coverage, provide necessary logistics to customs officials to complete customs clearance operations, establish back-up storage at multiple locations outside the ICD and provide round-the-clock access for the customs authorities to their own software used for the purpose of off-dock management.
On 4 June, 51 people lost their lives to a fire caused by an accident due to hydrogen peroxide at the BM depot. More than 200 people were injured. In the incident, 154 containers carrying export goods and two containers carrying import goods were damaged.
The following day, the Chattogram Customs Authority stopped all activities of the depot. But due to less number of depots compared to demand, complications have risen in staffing and clearance of import and export goods.
Later, the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association wrote a letter to the customs authorities demanding resumption of BM Depot operations. Then on 22 August, the authorities allowed the storage of empty containers at the BM Container Depot subject to conditions.
According to data from the inland container depots association, there are 19 private ICDs in Chattogram with a combined capacity of about 78,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).
Out of this, BM Depot's container holding capacity is 6,500 TEUs. It handles 10,000 containers per month, including import and export and empty containers.