- 54 ships sitting idly at outer anchorage
- Fines up to $810 lakh being counted every day
- 9 lakh tonnes of goods to be unloaded from 40 ships
- Strikers' 11-point demand includes food allowance, health-protection equipment, employment letters, effective measures to stop extortion
Due to the closure of lighterage shipping, 54 mother vessels have been sitting idly at the outer anchorage of the Chattogram port.
All types of cargo vessels, across the country, have shut their operations since 19 October at midnight in response to a strike sponsored by the Shipping Workers Federation and the Lighterage Workers Union to meet an 11-point demand.
Shipping agents have to pay fines of around $500-800 lakh per day for the 54 ships – at a rate of $10-15 thousand per ship – because of their stays at the port.
If the strike is not withdrawn, the country's image in international maritime trade will be tarnished and it will cause a catastrophe, said concerned shipping agents.
Shafiqul Alam Jewel, vice-president of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, told The Business Standard that the demurrage charge is $10,000-15,000 a day, depending on the size of each mother vessel.
"The country's shipping sector is suffering for a lack of coordination between shipping workers and owners. If this continues, mother vessels will no longer want to come to Bangladesh. It is also tarnishing the reputation of the country in the shipping sector," he said.
According to the Chattogram port, 54 cargo ships were stationed at the outer anchorage until 20 October. Due to the strike of shipping workers, unloading of goods was stopped for 40 ships. These ships have 895,340 metric tonnes of cargo.
Of these: 10 clinker-carrying ships have 148,211 metric tonnes of the product; one ship carrying slag contains 29,000 metric tonnes, three ships carrying limestone contain 100,465 metric tonnes, one ship carrying gypsum contains 45,900 metric tonnes, three ball-clay-carrying ships contain 7,660 metric tonnes, one ship carrying sugar contains 43,190 metric tonnes, and one ship carrying stones contains 1,700 metric tonnes.
Further, 30,580 metric tonnes of product were in two ships carrying coils, 255,874 tonnes in eight wheat-carrying ships and 232,760 tonnes of products were in 10 different ships.
Additionally, 11 ships of three ship berthing were awaiting instructions for unloading.
Md Khorshed Alam, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Noujan Shramik Federation, told The Business Standard, "The strike has been going on since midnight of 19 October demanding an 11-point demand including a food allowance, health-protection equipment, employment letters, and effective measures to stop extortion."
He continued, "The owners are not taking any steps to implement these demands. On the contrary, they stated through a press conference that our demands will not be met. If our demands are not met, the strike will continue."
Nurul Haque, general secretary of the Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association, termed the strike as unreasonable and illegal.
"It is not possible for us to accept their demands. If the strike is not called off, we will not sit with the workers," he said.
Meanwhile, Mahbubul Alam, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, has urged Begum Monnujan Sufian, state minister of the Ministry of Labour and Employment to take urgent action to call off the strike.
In a letter sent on 20 October, the president of the chamber mentioned that the unloading of industrial raw materials and daily necessities at the outer port of Chattogram has been stopped due to an indefinite strike by the shipping workers.
The non-operation of lighterage ships has hampered the transportation of these raw materials and goods across the country plus is creating a new crisis at the port, he mentioned in the letter.
It would also increase the turnaround time of the ships and overstay will increase the import-export cost of goods – including demurrage charges.