It is the need of the hour to form a task force and steering committee to prevent corruption in the maritime sector as the sector has become hostage to a class of corrupt officials, and if it continues it will be difficult to sustain the business, said shippers in a discussion on corruption in the maritime sector held in Chattogram.
Bangladesh Shipping Agents' Association (BSAA), Maritime Anti-Corruption Network (MACN), and UN Global Compact in Bangladesh organised the meeting on Monday at the office of the BSAA in Chattogram.
MACN Project Manager Syed Ariful Islam said it is time to say no to corruption in the maritime sector. Therefore, a task force steering committee should be formed comprising shipping agents.
Highlighting the bureaucratic complications in the sector, the speakers in the meeting said that there is a lack of coordination between the port authorities and the customs authorities in the import and export at the country's main seaport, because of which many businessmen are harassed.
Traders also suffer financially due to unnecessary complications in the customs clearance process. For example, product release takes more than 11 days on average. Due to these reasons, the image of Bangladesh in the maritime world is being undermined.
BSAA Chairman Syed Mohammed Arif said, "In the case of loading a ship with a length of more than 186 metres, an undertaking has to be given with a stamp of Tk300, which is unfair. Besides, there is a discussion about installing scanning machines at all gates of the port, but the scanning machines are not installed due to mysterious reasons. It is as if we have become hostages everywhere."
Vice President of Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association Khairul Alam Suzan said in his speech that the cargo clearance process at Chattogram Port has become hostage to berth operators. Recently, due to complications related to the payment of bills at Chattogram Port yard, the berth operator stopped the clearance of goods for four hours, which is an unprecedented incident.
He also said that berth and ship handling practices should be given to shipping agents as they have developed such capabilities. Otherwise, the pre-2007 provision to appoint operators of the choice of shipping agents should be maintained. This will create competition in clearing goods at the port.
BSAA Director Shahed Sarwar said that there is bureaucracy in each step. After the ship arrives at the port, the customs clearance process starts after bringing the documents on board the ship, which is not always possible due to bad weather. These documents could be submitted online.
Officials from all authorities in the maritime network harboured a negative attitude towards traders. As a result, there is a negative impact on the country's economy, he added.