Mongla is the second largest seaport in the country. More than 1,000 domestic and foreign cargo ships come to this internationally renowned port every year.
These ships sometimes face danger during various natural calamities. But the port does not have any rescue ship or emergency alert system in case any ship needs assistance.
Hence, in the event of an accident, one has to rely entirely on private rescue agencies.
Mongla Port was set up on 1 December 1950 at the junction of the River Pashur and the River Mongla at Shelabunia Mouza at Bagerhat's Mongla area. The port has had to go through many ups and downs since its establishment.
At present, although the capacity of the port has increased from what it was in the past, the authorities could not procure any rescue ships to ensure the safety of the ships arriving at the port.
The Chattogram Port Authority had a rescue ship named "Shaktiman" which was wrecked in a storm in the 90s and since then, the country's seaports have been empty of rescue ships.
In the 2019-20 financial year, some 903 ships arrived at Mongla and around 702 ships have arrived till February this year. And every so often, there have been ship-related accidents.
On the morning of 9 December 2014, a tanker carrying 3.5 lakh litres of fuel sank in the Shela River in the Sundarbans after being hit by a cargo ship. Oil immediately spilt in the Sundarbans when the ship sank, causing extensive damage to the environment.
The sinking of ships carrying chemical fertilisers and clinkers at different times has also caused both environmental and financial damage to the Sundarbans.
Environmentalists and port experts claim that the damage could have been mitigated if there had been an emergency rescue ship at Mongla port. They believe that there is no substitute for a rescue ship for a capable port.
HM Dulal Hossain, proprietor of shipping business Nuru and Sons, expressing dissatisfaction about the lack of rescue ships, said that ships often have to face danger due to the lack of emergency alert and vessel traffic management information system.
Giving an example he said, "Recently one of the sailors on our ship died at night but we got the news next afternoon. This communication delay is a regular occurrence. But if there was a vessel traffic management information system network from Mongla Port to Hiranpoint, we could have had smooth communication.
Port authorities said steps were being taken to resolve the crisis. At present, work is underway to set up a Vessel Traffic Management Information System (VTMIS) at four places from Mongla to Hiranpoint. Of this, 70% of construction work has been completed as of 15 March.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the port authority, said that no port in the country has its rescue ship. He said that when in need, the port authority uses one of the two ships of The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA). Each of those ships has a capacity of 250 tons.
"The port also receives assistance from various private rescue ships in case of emergency. So far, no major disaster has occurred in Mongla port," he added.
However, he acknowledged that there had been some problems with the sinking of the oil tanker in 2014.
About rescuing ships in danger, Shahjahan said, "When ships are in danger at sea and in our channels, we try to rescue them first but when most of the ship gets sank, it cannot be rescued and we have to declare it scrap. We then cut the sank ship into pieces and then remove them from the water."
However, he mentioned plans for purchasing a high-powered ship within the next year to help rescue sunken vessels.