The Karnaphuli Group is going to launch two more feeder vessels, which is expected to reduce the transhipment period significantly, saving both time and money in transporting goods to and from various international destinations on waterways.
The two new vessels – MV HR Rhea and MV HR Hera – will ply Singapore-Colombo-Kelang port route. The previous two ships – MV Sahare and MV Sarera, which were launched in June last year – ply Singapore and Malaysia routes.
MV HR Rhea will start its journey from Chittagong port to Singapore on 5 April and MV HR Hera will leave for Colombo on 7 April.
In the past, it used to take seven to eight days to get a feeder vessel and load it before starting for container cargo transhipment ports due to tight schedules; from now on, it will take two to three days.
Karnaphuli Group brought the two feeder vessels eight months ago. With these two new feeder ships, there are now four Bangladeshi flagged feeder vessels.
Importers and exporters said that Bangladeshi-flagged feeder ships are playing a significant role in international maritime transport by delivering goods to their destinations on time and these two new vessels will brighten the image of Bangladesh in the international maritime trade.
Rear Admiral M Shahjahan, chairman of the Chittagong Port Authority, told The Business Standard (TBS) that the addition of two ships would undoubtedly play a positive role in the country's economy. The maritime sector will be more prosperous and foreign currencies will be saved.
Anis Ud Daula, executive director of Vessel Operator HR Line, told TBS that the two new ships will carry goods from Chittagong port to Singapore-Colombo-Kelang port under the Chittagong-Colombo Express service.
Our previous two ships, which brought cargo containers from Chittagong Port to Singapore Port and Kelang Port in Malaysia, have already won the confidence of exporters and importers by transport goods on time, he added.
The port of Chittagong handles about three million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) containers a year. From Chittagong port, 22 foreign feeder operators transport goods to Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Chinese ports through 84 container vessels.
According to Chittagong port sources, the port handled 29.3 lakh TEUs containers in 2018, 30.88 lakh in 2019 and 28.40 lakh in 2020.
The previous two ships have carried 66,396 TEUs containers in the last eight months and earned $12 million, which is only 4% of all containers. The Karnaphuli Group is working to increase it to 20-30% in the next 2 to 3 years.
Karnaphuli Group sources said that two more new ships are coming next August. Tk225 crore has been invested in these four ships. The group's total investment in this sector, including previous investments, will stand at Tk335 crore.
The MV HR Hera, with a length of 182.83 metres, a width of 28 metres and a draft of 6.4 metres, is capable of carrying 1,454 TEUs containers.
The capacity of MV HR Rhea is 1,454 TEUs. The vessel is 182.83-metre-long, 28-metre-wide and 5.3metre draught.
Both ships have 22 sailors each, all of whom are Bangladeshis.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Bangladesh's representation on international sea routes should be increased as the industry develops in the country. More new investors like Karnaphuli Group need to come forward in this sector.
As there is no deep seaport in Bangladesh, large container ships cannot dock at Chittagong seaport. As a result, small ships, known as feeder vessels, have to rely upon international routes.
Export products including the readymade garment industry are initially transported from Chittagong port to Singapore Malaysian port by feeder vessels. Then, the containers are in transit and reach the destination by large ships.
Bangladesh flag vessel operators will get priority to get berthing at Chittagong port as per the Bangladeshi Flagship Ship Protection Act 2019. There is an obligation to transport 50% of the goods on domestic ships. As a result, there is no need to wait for the ship to dock at the jetty.