In Bangladesh, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan started on May 16 and will last until June 14, with Eid-ul-Fitr public holiday celebration on June 15 to mark the end of a full month of fasting. This is the period Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours and break their fast after sunset. Reports suggest that productivity level during Ramadan reduces by 35 to 50 percent across the Muslim majority countries.
According to local sources, port of Chittagong, which handles around 90 percent of the country’s exports and imports, will remain open during the fasting period. However, the port’s productivity is likely to be lower than usual as the number of port workers is expected to be reduced to 15 to 20 percent as employees travel back to their hometowns to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr. Acute labor shortages are likely during the last week of Ramadan (June 11 – 15) due to the absence of truckers who are needed for loading and unloading of cargo goods and port handling. Moreover, business hours are likely to be cut short to last between 09:00 and 15:30 (local time).
For import flows, consumer goods such as oil and food have reportedly arrived ahead of Ramadan. This is because the demand for such goods normally increases during the holy month as consumers buy more food for Iftar, the evening meal to break the day-long fasting. In April, the port experienced an influx of imports and faced shortages in container storage capacity. This caused Chittagong port authority to impose additional surcharges for container storage together with regular charges. Under normal circumstances, every container enjoys a four-day free storage service once it reaches Chittagong. The port normally faces heavy congestions due to limited yard space and equipment shortages. Thus, this year’s increased import volumes significantly affected the port’s container handling capacity as it was catering to 36,726 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) of import-laden containers in April alone, which is higher than its average capacity of 26,857 TEUs.
As export goods are privately managed outside of the port, these are likely to be unaffected by congestion at the port facility. During the month of Ramadan, however, factories normally face pressure to finish manufacturing export productions two weeks before the holidays begin as factories normally shut down for Eid-ul-Fitr celebration. Operation of steel and re-rolling mills will reportedly be suspended during Ramadan peak hours i.e. Iftar time in the run up to the Eid celebrations in mid-June.
According to local sources, the challenge for Chittagong port for this year is likely to be the impact of monsoon season (mid-May to September) and other severe weather conditions that may largely impact the port’s operations which may in turn, change vessel schedules. With the annual cyclone season from Bay of Bengal and Ramadan overlapping, the port needs to be ready to face congestion and infrastructure challenges. Customers with interests in shipments to Chittagong during Ramadan should keep in mind possible congestion and long dwell times. Keep abreast of developments to ease paying additional charges and have appropriate contingency plans in place for inland freight movement.