Return of 15 sailors stranded in Kolkata is still uncertain
Special Correspondent: Uncertainty over the return of 15 Bangladeshi sailors of the ship ‘MV Marine Trust-01’ that sank at Kolkata port has not yet been resolved. They have been stuck for about two months. Officials of the concerned departments including the Bangladesh Shipping Department could not provide any definite information about the return of the sailors to the country. However, some people say that the reason for the delay is the lack of agreement on compensation and the sailors wanting to return to the country together.
On the evening of April 29, the owner of the ship promised to bring back the stranded sailors within 7-8 days. Then three more weeks passed. No decision has been made yet. Container ships are operating between the two countries through the Coastal Shipping Agreement under the existing Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) between Bangladesh and India.
It is learned that on March 20, 15 sailors left Chittagong port for Kolkata with the ship ‘MV Marine Trust-01’. There they arrived on 23 March. At 9 am on March 24, the ship capsized and overturned after unloading cargo containers at Lot No. 5 of Kolkata Shyamaprasad Mukherjee Port. At that moment, the sailors quickly got off the ship. The ship had 120 containers of 20 feet and 45 containers of 40 feet. The load containers weighed 3,069 metric tons. The ship was scheduled to reach Chittagong port from Kolkata on March 25.
On the afternoon of April 26, the 15 sailors uploaded a three-and-a-half minute video message on social media. In a video message, they expressed their desire to return to the country.
Describing the accident, the ship’s chief engineer Fahim Faisal said the Kolkata Port Authority had kept them at the Marine Club Hotel (Sea-Man Hostel). Their passports were also taken there. They have been under siege for over a month.
The administrations of the two countries have been shaken after the video of 15 sailors went viral on social media. After that, the Department of Shipping of Bangladesh also sent a letter to the Department of Shipping of India requesting proper cooperation regarding their repatriation.
On April 29, Captain Ghiyasuddin Ahmed, Principal Officer, Department of Shipping and Commerce, told that the Department of Shipping was working to bring back 15 Bangladeshi sailors stranded at Kolkata port. The ship has already been declared abandoned. We have asked the ship’s owner to take immediate action to bring the sailors back.
In this regard, the President of the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers Association (BMMOA) Captain Anam Chowdhury told at noon on Friday (May 20th) that inland coastal vessels operate on certain Bangladesh-India ports and routes through the India-Bangladesh Naval Protocol. There are also several cargo and container ships. The container ship ‘MV Marine Trust-01’ which crashed in Kolkata port is one of them.
He said ships operating under the India-Bangladesh Naval Protocol do not comply with international maritime compliance. In their case, there are some rules and regulations. Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person.
The BMMOA President said that there is a separate organization of workers of Inland Coastal Vessels operating through India-Bangladesh Naval Protocol. They are not affiliated with our Merchant Marine Officers Association. Even then one of my staff sons was working on the ship ‘MV Marine Trust-01’. I am working for him. We talked to DG Shipping. Talked to the ship owner. I first joined the ITF (International Transport Workers Federation). ITL is investigating the sailors there.
‘The Calcutta Port Authority had decided to leave the four senior members of the ship and send others to the country. But later all the sailors of the ship gave a letter to the Indian authorities to come together. This has created a new danger. Talks are now underway between the two countries at a higher level. However, it is not clear when it will be possible to bring him back to the country.
Captain Md. Anam Chowdhury complained that there are some organizations of inland coastal vessel workers. They take money from workers, but it doesn’t work.
Chowdhury Ashiqul Islam Patal, general secretary of the Bangladesh Inland Water Vessel Workers’ Federation, told on Saturday (May 21st) that investigations were underway to repatriate sailors stranded in Kolkata. The shipwreck caused some damage to the physical structure of Calcutta port. No agreement has yet been reached between the shipowners and the Calcutta Port Authority on the issue of compensation.
However, he could not give any information about when they can return to the country.
Ashiqul Islam Patal said the ship’s owners were negligent in bringing the stranded sailors back to the country. The ship’s owner is currently out of the country. There is a director named Sahikul Islam. I talked to him once. That gentleman did not communicate with me.
He added that the stranded sailors were initially worried about food. They are currently at the Kolkata Boat Club.
Chief Engineer and Ship Surveyor of the Department of Shipping. Manjurul Kabir told that he had written to the Indian Department of Shipping to bring back the sailors of the MV Marine Trust-01 that crashed at the Kolkata port. Moreover, our Ministry of Shipping has sent letters to the Ministry of External Affairs, Bangladesh High Commission in India, Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. Now the matter is not at our level. It will be possible to bring back the sailors stranded in Kolkata through high level talks between the two countries.
He said container ships rarely operate under the India-Bangladesh Naval Protocol Agreement. Of these, about 14 have been approved. Now about 3-4 container ships are plying. MV Marine Trust-01 is one of them. Under this agreement, a ship needs permission of two countries to go to or from Bangladesh. The ships are operating as per the agreement.
Speaking on the occasion, Captain Sahikul Islam, director of Marine Trust Limited, which owns MV Marine Trust-01, told on April 29 that the port has some responsibilities and rules in case of a shipwreck. It may take 7-8 days for sailors to return home after overcoming legal complications.
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