Owners of international seagoing oil tankers are not satisfied with the existing safety and security measures at Chattogram Port.
The Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation (BPC) wants them to offload the imported oil at the port jetty, but the tanker companies prefer to offload the oil onto lightering ships in the outer anchorage.
The Kuwait Oil Tanker Company (KOTC), a major tanker provider to BPC, expressed concern after an accident last June.
However, sources at the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) say that they have enough safety measures in place for ships and foreign tankers in the port.
“We are doing our level best to provide safety and security for each and every ship in the port,” said Mohammad Omar Faruk, secretary of CPA.
BPC has been importing refined and crude oil from different foreign companies for a long time.
All the imported crude oil and a larger portion of refined oil is offloaded at Chattogram port.
On June 14, MT Burgan, one of KOTC’s oil tankers, collided with another vessel, the MV Xpress Mahananda, as it was leaving port after offloading oil.
The MT Burgan was seriously damaged in the accident.
Had the accident taken place when the tanker was loaded, oil could have spilled onto the river, and that would have posed a serious environmental threat.
The Karnafuli River narrowly escaped a catastrophe.
Later, KOTC, the owner of the damaged vessel, submitted a proposal to the BPC to use the South West of Kutubdia Island as an alternative and safe location to avoid accidents while offloading oil.
In the same proposal, it also asked for cooperation from the port authority to avoid accidents and environmental damage.
But BPC is not ready to consider KOTC’s proposal because of a shortage of lightering vessels.
“We cannot allow them to anchor in the deep sea off Kutubdia because we don’t have enough lightering ships in our fleet,” said Md Shamsur Rahman, Chairman of BPC.
“Time limitation and distance will also be big issues if we consider their proposal. Instead we urged the CPA to provide more safety for oil importing vessels,” he added.
Currently, oil carrying vessels anchor about 11 or 12 nautical mile away of the jetties.
From there, BPC’s lightering vessels offload and deliver the oil to the inland depot at Tk 64.40 per ton.
But if foreign tankers start anchoring at Kutubdia Island, that will be 28 to 30 nautical mile away from the jetties. This will increase the cost of using lightering vessels to deliver the oil to the depot.
BPC is the only state-run organization which is responsible for importing and distributing oil through its subsidiary companies across the country.
In 2018, BPS imported 99.58 lakh tons of crude and refined oil from different countries.