Dhaka: The container ship Songa Cheetah arrived at Chattogram port on February 5 and is leaving for Italy’s Porto di Ravenna on February 7, marking the first direct commercial freight trip from Bangladesh to Europe.
The move will open new doors to bolster country’s apparel exports to its biggest market Europe. The voyage will put an end to lengthy and costly transportation of goods, expects those concerned.
Till now, Bangladeshi businesses send their products to Europe from Chattogram via ports in other regions on the way. This makes exporters wait for a long time to book ships from those ports, increasing the processing time and cost of shipping.
Now, with faster and cheaper delivery, more European buyers are expected to be interested in ordering readymade garments from Bangladesh. Countries in other regions, such as the US, may also be keen to go for direct shipping from Bangladesh.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, Chairman of Chattogram Port Authority, said they will give Songa Cheetah direct berthing facility so that it will not have to wait longer. The authorities will also prioritise technical and administrative support for the ship.
Rif Line, an Italian logistics company and its associate Kalypso Compagnia di Navigazione SPA Italy initiated the trip after several European buyers expressed eagerness in direct Bangladesh-Italy shipping.
Another ship, Cape Flores, arrived in Bangladesh directly from Italy with empty containers on a trial run in January. Songa Cheetah and Cape Flores will continue freight operation on the route from now on.
Mohammad Rashed, Chairman of the initiative’s local agent Reliance Shipping and Logistics Limited, said Songa Cheetah is leaving on February 7 with 983 TEU (twenty feet equivalent unit) containers, 98 per cent of which will be used for garment export to Italy and some other European countries. It is expected to reach Italy after 16 days.
“The fares will be 35 to 40 per cent less than usual because of the direct voyage. Two ships will continue the service for now. More ships will be added if the initiative proves to be successful,” Rashed added.