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Bangladesh - December 20, 2023

Imported goods carrying could be hampered

Lighter vessel owners divided into 2-group

Chittagong Bureau: The owners of lighter vessels plying over the country have divided into two groups, which could create hinderance in transportation of imported goods from Chittagong Port to different parts of the country.
Goods imported from abroad by mother vessel are transported to different parts of the country by small ships or lighter vessels. The number of such ships is about 1,500. Lighterage vessels plying the country’s inland waterways were solely controlled by the Water Transport Cell (WTC). But the lighter ship owners of Chittagong have formed a new cell called Inland Vessel Owners Association of Chittagong by strongly criticizing the activities of WTC. Through this cell, goods will be transported from Chittagong port to different parts of the country by allocating ships.

It is known that every year around 1000 ships come through Chittagong port with imported products including food products, cement, fertilizer, oil. The products of these ships are transported by small ships or lighter vessels to different parts of the country to specific places of the importer. The number of such ships is about 1,500. As a result, the inland shipping sector of the country is important. Not all types of ships can accommodate the tidal Chittagong port. Medium-sized ships carrying a maximum of 25 to 30 thousand tons of cargo can anchor at the port’s jetty. The cost of transporting goods in such vessels is relatively high. Therefore, importers bring goods in large mother vessels capable of transporting goods from 70 thousand to 100,000 tons. As these ships have the opportunity to bring many products at the same time, the cost is reduced. But such big ships cannot crowd the port. As a result, the product has to be unloaded at the outer anchorage. The entire process of discharge of goods at outer anchorage is carried out by Lighterage vessels. Besides, goods are unloaded in lighterage vessels from overside (river side) of vessels inside the port.
Chittagong port’s outer anchorage currently handles about 1,000 ships on an average per year. On an average, at least 10 million tons of goods are handled in these ships. These products include wheat, sugar, fertilizer, cement clinker and other raw materials of various industrial factories. These are transported from Chittagong Port and Outer Anchor to various ghats of the port channel and Dhaka, Mirpur, Nagarbari, Baghabari, Noapara, Khulna, Barisal and other parts of the country through lighter ships. Besides, a part of the fertilizers produced by CUFL and Kafco of Chittagong is also transported to buffer warehouses in 25 districts controlled by BCIC through lighterage ships.
As a result, the cargo transportation network of the country is completely dependent on the normal movement of these ships. Although several companies, including various cement factories, transport goods in their own lighterage vessels, general importers transport goods through WTCs. WTC conducts daily berthing meetings and allocates lighterage vessels against the demand of importers.
Officials of the Water Transport Cell said that there are 33 product agents and 60 local agents in the Water Transport Cell. WTC coordinates between the two types of organizations to allocate vessels and collect fares. In this, goods agents acting as importers’ agents hire vessels from WTC’s listed local agents and pay the rent to WTC. WTC pays the rent collected to the local agent. Later the local agent pays the rent to the ship owners.
Some importers said that the entire domestic sector of the country is dependent on the water transport cell. Therefore, starting from Chittagong Port’s external anchoring activities, the country’s import trade is dependent on these activities of the inland shipping sector. As a result, if there is any kind of crisis in the movement of lighterage ships, the whole management collapses.
Therefore, the promoters of the new cell called Inland Vessel Owners Association of Chittagong said that the Water Transport Cell was formed in 2005 to bring discipline in the handling of lighter vessels. Goods have been transported on inland shipping routes through this institution for a long time. In recent years, various complaints have been raised against the activities of this institution. Among these, there are various complaints against the WTC regarding various time disputes of ship owners and importers, creating artificial crisis of ships and giving multiple trips to preferred ships even though queues of idle ships are long. As a result, after breaking WTC, a new organization of the same type has started in Chittagong. The journey of this new organization started with a colorful ceremony at Hotel Agrabad on Tuesday.
The organization started as Inland Vessel Owners Association of Chittagong is led by former Chittagong City Mayor and city Awami League General Secretary AJM Nashiruddin. He will serve as the convener of the new cell.
To find out about this, the president of the new organization, Haji Shafiq Ahmed and the general secretary, Mohammad Azizur Rahman, were contacted several times by mobile phone, but they did not receive the call. An entrepreneur of the organization, who did not want to be named, said, in the beginning, we will start our activities with about four hundred ships. Will gradually add more ship owners. Basically, the country’s importers and ship owners are fed up with the WTC activities. Hence this new organization.
On the other hand, WTC Executive Director Mahbub Rashid told, “I am sick.” I have no comment on this. However, he commented on the matter as ‘sad’.

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