Bangladesh export to Europe, the country's biggest apparel export destination, is going to be faster and cheaper as a direct freight service is likely opening from Chattogram port to Europe from today.
Experts said it is a milestone initiative for the export sector as it will help to reduce cost of transportation as well as reduce lead time of delivering goods.
The first ship named ‘Songa Cheetah’ on the route, carrying export goods, will leave Chattogram for the Port of Ravenna in Italy on Saturday, the officials said.
The vessel is likely to bring around 1,100 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) of export containers containing mostly readymade garments, they said.
Primarily, two ships, Cape Flores and Songa Cheetah, with capacity of 1,200 TEUs will transport export containers from Chattogram on the route every 25 days, they said, expecting that it will reduce the shipment cost by around 40 percent.
It will take only 16 days to reach Italy for a ship, which currently takes about 40 days.
Mohammad Rashed, chairman of the two ships' local agent firm Reliance Shipping and Logistics, said that the Chattogram-Italy direct container shipping has started.
If it is regularly operated on this route, freight charges will go down further, he added.
Songa Cheetah contains raw materials of garment factories , he said.
The vessel would take away 1,100 TEUs export load containers to the Italian port from where the cargoes would be sent to different European destinations, he informed.
Rakibul Alam Chowdhury, vice president of BGMEA, said that the new shipping route of the Chattogram-Italy direct container shipping with Europe has created huge potential for Bangladesh's export sector.
He said many times, exporters felt uncertainty to send the product to the customers at the stipulated time.
“There remains a risk of missing the mother vessel even if the feeder vessels are late by one day to reach the transshipment port. In many cases, ships leave the Chattogram port without taking the goods to get the schedule of the mother vessel,” he mentioned.
Syed Mohammad Arif, chairman of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, said that exporters faced various charges being paid in different stages to send products to Europe.
Direct transport of goods will save a huge amount of money, he said, adding that foreign buyers will be benefitted as the cost of transporting goods will be reduced.
It will help in creating new buyers which will help to increase export earnings, he mentioned.
However, an Italian shipping company is launching the service with its two small-sized container vessels, including Songa Cheetah.
The country has long been suffering from a lack of direct shipping services to Europe, its biggest export destination, mainly due to limited access to large ships at the Chattogram port.
Currently export containers are at first transported on small-sized feeder vessels to four transhipment ports -- Colombo, Singapore, Tanjung Pelepas and Port Klang of Malaysia -- and some ports in China.
Then containers are loaded to bigger mother vessels connecting to Europe, the US and African destinations.