The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) has decided to purchase less powerful vessels without significant price reduction from the previous cost fixed for high-speed vessels they had wanted.
For instance, a "Modern Cabin Cruiser cum Inspection Boat" was supposed to be purchased at Tk9.42 crore under a project approved by the Ecnec. It was supposed to be a boat with twin 800hp engines reaching up to 35 nautical miles speed.
But then BIWTC changed the specifications and decided to buy a 25 nautical mile vessel at Tk60 lakh less.
This purchase process is going on under the project "Procurement of 35 Nos Commercial and eight Auxiliary Vessel and Construction of two new slipway for BIWTC".
The original project proposal of BIWTC was revised and less powerful boats were specified in several cases later spending almost the same amount.
According to the BIWTC, the proposed speed and capacity of the engine is not suitable for our country, so there has been some changes in the proposal.
However, Ecnec policy does not allow substituting products with lesser capacity.
The project has been approved in the Ecnec in March 2018. The Shipping Ministry approved the proposal on December 12 last year to be completed in June 2022. The BIWTC extended the project completion date for one year, or until June 2023.
The project cost was fixed as Tk1319.71 crore which has been revised to Tk1318.20 crore after changed specifications.
Ministries themselves can approve the change of cost up to 15 percent and they do not need to send the proposal to the planning commission. The project implementing organisation BIWTC changed the specifications but the project cost was not reduced significantly. However, if there are any changes in the products or services in the proposed projects, it is compulsory to submit a revised proposal to the Ecnec.
Planning Commission sources said the BIWTC sent the revised project proposal to the commission. The commission objected to it because of changes in the specifications and recommended taking disciplinary action against responsible officers for breaking rules. The Shipping Ministry later sanctioned administrative approval without any disciplinary action against anyone in the ministry.
However, according to Planning Division Secretary Nurul Amin, ministries can make small changes in the approved projects, adding that in case of big changes, revised proposals have to be submitted to the Planning Commission.
The BIWTC conducted a feasibility study to determine the impact of the project. At present, it says it will incur loss if the high-speed vessels are purchased as the fuel and operational cost will increase.
High speed vessels will create large waves in the water ways which will create problems to the local vessels including boats. Even the small boats can drown too.
Ten nautical miles is considered the ideal speed in our inland waterways, according to the BIWTC. Even if a high speed vessel is run in low speed it will not reduce the fuel cost.
The project steering committee decided on the speed and power capacity of the engine as per the experts' opinion in July last year. They observed that the price of the vessels would not be reduced significantly due to the changes in the specifications regarding the speed and engine capacity. They also observed that only the engine purchase price would have a slight reduction.
"We made the changes in project proposal taking permission from the shipping ministry and have also informed the Planning Commission," said Project Director Tajul Islam.
"The changes in engine capacity and speed will not impact the cost significantly. All the changes have been made as per expert opinions," he added.
Maritime expert and managing director of R Industries Ltd Ashraf Ibn Noor said, "As the engine capacity has been decreased the cost should have been decreased more."
Comparing the old and revised estimated price, Ashraf said the cost should have been decreased Tk7-8 crore more.
Md Tauhid Aziz, chief engineer officer, Motor Tanker SC Warrior L Soechi Line, Jakarta, Indonesia, echoed the same opinion. He said, while the engine is the costliest component of a vessel, the price of a ship depends on many other things such as its load capacity, and the engine manufacturer.
Under the project, the BIWTC will purchase three passenger cruisers, three modern inland passenger vessels, four modern coastal passenger ship, eight sea trucks, two salvage cum firefighting tugs, two oil tankers, one modern cabin cruiser cum inspection boat, six improved medium ferries, six improved utility type ferries, six medium plus UT pontoons, and two Rocket Ghat pontoons.