No less than 200 Ansar personnel deployed for the security of different customs offices have been barracked in the protected area of Chattogram port, in violation of port rules.
The International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) and the Special Measures Act of 1948 stipulates that no one is allowed to live in the protected area.
The Ansar members have been living in the three-storied old auction house of the Chattogram Custom House (CCH) in the port for a long time.
The port is a bonded area and a key point installation. The presence of Ansar members in the protected area can be considered a threat to port security, said sources at the port authority.
Their presence has made it a big challenge for the port authority to implement the ISPS code.
On a visit to the port, this correspondent found an arsenal on the first floor near the fourth jetty gate of the port, and the barracks of the Ansar members on the second and third floors of the old auction house.
The building appeared to be unsafe, but the Ansar members were moving all over the place.
"There is an arrangement for accommodating ninety Ansar members here," said Ansar Commander Habibur Rahman.
"The Special Measures Act 1948 says that entering the port illegally and living on port premises is a punishable offence," said Zillur Rahman, the deputy manager (estate) of Chattogram port.
He added, "Chattogram port has around three thousand staff members, including security personnel, but they live outside the port. Though the Chattogram port authority has sent letters to the Chattogram Custom House several times, the Custom House is yet to take any action."
On July 14 this year, the secretary of Chattogram Port Authority, Omar Faruk, sent a letter to the commissioner of the Chattogram Custom House asking for the Ansar members to be moved to a different barracks.
A new auction house has been built, but there is no arrangement to accommodate the Ansar members there, said sources at Chattogram Customs House.
The sources added that many items that are evidence in different legal cases are still being stored in the old auction shed, and the Ansars need to stay there to guard the evidence.
An ISPS team of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), after an inspection of Chattogram port in 2017, had given a 16-point directive as per ISPS rules.
Of the 16-points, one of the major conditions was controlling vehicle movement inside the port and the unloading of goods outside the port.
Another team of the same organisation inspected the port in August this year and again stressed the need to relocate the Ansar members, said sources at the port.
They also said that despite a new auction house being built at a cost of Tk22 crore, the Custom House is not doing anything about the old auction house in the protected area. The new auction house started being used on September 2, 2015.
On April 17 this year, Kazi Mostafizur Rahman, a former commissioner of Chattorgam Custom House sent a letter to the port chairman mentioning that since they have not built a new barracks to accommodate the 200 Ansar members in the new auction house, they cannot move them there.
"The old auction house and the Ansar barracks will be relocated from the protected area soon," said Chattogram Custom House Commissioner Fakhrul Alam.
Chattogram Port Secretary Omar Faruk said, "We will try to resolve the issue soon."
The director general of the Ministry of Shipping and chief of the ISPS Code Implementation Committee, Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, refused to comment, but said, "I am not aware of the issue."