To restore order in the transport of goods to various shipping points in the country by lightering vessels from and to mother ships docked in Chattogram outer harbour, the Department of Shipping has called a meeting on 14 October with representatives of the Bangladesh Cement Manufacturing Association, the Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association, and the Water Transport Cell (WTC).
Department of Shipping Director General Commodore AZM Jalal Uddin is scheduled to preside over the meeting, says a notice issued in this regard on Monday by Md Manjurul Karib, chief engineer and ship surveyor of the Department of Shipping.
On 23 August, the Department of Shipping had issued an emergency naval notification announcing that goods will be loaded and unloaded following a WTC schedule as per the goods transport policy 2013.
The notification also said appropriate legal action will be taken against ship owners and sailors who disobey this order.
According to the 2013 policy, 50% of the raw materials imported by the cement factory have to be transported by ships under the WTC. Even if cement factory owners have their own vessels they still have to transport goods by a chartered vessel.
Following the issuance of the emergency notification, there were mixed reactions from cement manufacturers, industry owners, and the WTC. There have also been incidents of assaulting the crew of vessels not under the WTC.
At present, 2,500 lightering vessels, including 1,300 under WTC, and 400 under industrial groups, carry goods on 34 routes of the country from the outer harbour of Chattogram port.
Saying that cement industry owners have invested Tk3,000 crore in lightering ships, Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association First Vice President Md Shahidullah told TBS, "Under no circumstances will our ships be operated following WTC schedules. In the meeting, we will demand the withdrawal of the decision to transport 50% of goods by WTC vessels."
"The WTC has reduced fares on various routes till next December without consulting industry owners. Of this, the fare from Chattogram to the Dhaka region was reduced from Tk548 to Tk415 per ton. The fare on this route should not be more than Tk250 under any circumstances. We will raise the issue in the meeting," he added.
Nurul Haque, general secretary of the Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association and convener of the WTC, said they are informed about the meeting.
He claimed that at present there is no chaos in the system of transporting goods on water routes.
Most recently, on Monday 11 October, The Business Standard published another report "Bulk importers at the mercy of lighter vessel cartel" concerning lightering vessels.