Ports: Lighter Vessel Strike: Importers stare at huge losses

The Daily Star  October 22, 2020

Businesses are counting massive losses as almost 22 lakh tonnes of goods have been waiting to be unloaded for two days at sea and river ports across the country.

Unless some 150,000 crew members get back to their vessels, there will be acute disruption in the supply chain of a wide range of goods.

Bangladesh Noujan Sramik Federation called for the strike from Tuesday saying they will not resume work unless their demands for food and sea allowances, appointment letters, identity cards and several other benefits are met.

Chattogram Port Authority (CPA) Chairman Rear Admiral SM Abul kalam Azad has called for a meeting at 3:00pm today to discuss the issue with the leaders of the federation, Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association and other stakeholders.

As of yesterday, a total of 40 cargo vessels with 10 lakh tonnes of wheat, lentil, maize, raw sugar, soya bean, salt, stone, coal, cement clinkers and other goods were stuck at the outer anchorage of Chattogram port.

Around 2,200 lighter vessels are engaged in the task of cargo discharging at the Chattogram port and 1,500 of those are controlled by a private organisation named Water Transport Cell (WTC).

City Group, Meghna Group, Bashundhara Group, Abul Khair Group and others own around 500 such vessels while there are around 200 non-registered vessels.

A total of 874 lighter vessels loaded with 12 lakh tonnes of imported goods are now stranded at 38 different private docks in Chattogram, Narayanganj, Nopara, Nagarbari, Baghabari, Khulna, Barishal, Patuakhali.

Importers are having to demurrage charges ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 to the foreign vessel owners for each day of waiting, officials said.

Around 1.70 lakh tonnes of wheat, raw sugar and soybean oil imported by City Group are now onboard three cargo vessels at Chattogram port.

The group’s 20 lighter vessels loaded with around 40,000 tonnes of these goods are stranded at different docks.

“If the work abstention continues there would be serious disruption in the supply chain of the goods,” said City Group Director Biswajit Saha.

Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of Chattogram based importing firm BSM Group, said if the supply chain gets disrupted there will be further price hike of different commodities.

The loss is manifold since consumers finally would have to bear the losses counted by the importers and industry owners, he added.

Seacom Group Managing Director Mohammed Amirul Haque said such strikes were unacceptable at a time when the government, entrepreneurs as well as the workers are trying hard to revive the country’s economy.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Noujan Sramik Federation’s General Secretary Chowdhury Ashiqul Alam said, “Our work abstention will continue until our demands are met.”

The workers demonstrated in Majhirghat area of Chattogram as well as at KDC area on the west bank of Kirtonkhola river in Barishal yesterday morning.

Our correspondents from Khulna and Barishal contributed to the report.

 

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