Saleh Noman . Chattogram
Readymade garment exporters are seeking unrestricted access to the Chittagong port for their goods amid the ongoing strict lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus infection in the country.
Apparel exporters also demanded that they be granted permission for the movement of relevant staff needed to complete the export process for RMG products.
The strict lockdown, which came into force on Friday morning and will continue till August 5, bans operations of all industries in the country, including the RMG sector.
However, banks and the customs department have been allowed to remain open to continue import-export activities through Chittagong port.
Although law enforcement agencies say vehicles transporting import and export goods will remain out of the purview of the lockdown, the Bangladesh Readymade Garments Manufacturer and Exporters Association (BGMEA) has asked for a government circular in this regard.
“Government officials have verbally informed us that there will be no restriction on export activities but the government circular announcing the strict lockdown does not mention it clearly,” BGMEA First Vice-President Sayed Nazrul Islam told The Business Post.
While there are no restrictions on the movement of port-bound vehicles, it is also necessary to clarify permits for concerned staff needed to complete the export process, he added.
“We will talk to government officials in this regard soon after the Eid holidays,” he said.
Meanwhile, shipping of export goods through Chittagong port continued as usual during the three-day Eid-ul-Azha holiday before the lockdown began.
Private Inland Container Depots (ICD), responsible for shipping export goods, were also active during the Eid holiday.
“In the days after Eid, at least 4,000 Twenty Equivalent Unit (TEUS) products were shipped from ICDs on Thursday and Friday, 90 per cent of which were readymade garments,” Ruhul Amin Biplob, secretary of Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA), told The Business Post.
He also assured that the law enforcement agencies were not obstructing the arrival or departure of trucks loaded with goods at the container depots.
On a normal working day, some 5,000 trucks, covered vans and long trailers enter the Chittagong port.
However, the number of vehicles significantly decreased at the port during the Eid holidays and the first day of the strict lockdown that began on Friday.
Law enforcers have been keeping a close watch on the entry points of the Chittagong port since Friday morning, where paramilitary BGB and army personnel are jointly working with the police.
The streets of Chattogram City were almost deserted on the first day of the lockdown.
Chattogram Metropolitan Police (CMP) Commissioner Saleh Mohammad Tanvir told The Business Post that vehicles loaded with goods were being allowed to move. Vehicles carrying import and export goods are being able to move as usual.
However, BGMEA’s Islam said that even though the factories are closed, some workers will need to work if import-export activities were to be carried out amid the restrictions.
“But during this lockdown, these staff will not be able to come to offices without permits,” he noted.
“If these staff are not allowed to move, it will be impossible to continue the export activities. We will request the government to allow them to move using a permit from BGMEA,” he added.