337 ships stranded with 9 lakh tonne imports
Tushar Hayat . Chittagong
Loading and offloading activities at the outer anchorage of Chittagong Port as well as water transportation of goods across the country have remained suspended for the past two days due to the strike of lighter vessel workers.
Lighter vessel workers went on the indefinite strike suddenly on early Friday in demand of salary and allowance hike and ensuring vessel safety on waterways.
Water Transport Cell sources said 20 foreign vessels laden with 606,000 tonnes of goods were stranded at the moment at the port’s outer anchorage due to the strike.
They also said 317 lighter vessels laden with 317,000 tonnes of goods offloaded from mother vessels also remained stuck on different waterways and at jetties across the country.
So, according to the WTC, the strike has stranded 337 vessels laden with pigeon-pea, sugar, wheat, salt, and 14 types of industrial raw materials.
Lighter vessels carry goods to and from port jetties and mother vessels at the outer anchorage as the mother vessels cannot berth at the jetties due to their depth. Lighter vessels also carry goods from mother vessels to 16 destinations across the country.
Chittagong Port Authority secretary Sayad Farhad Uddin Ahmed confirmed that loading and offloading of goods at the outer anchorage remained totally suspended due to the strike. He, however, said cargo-handling at the port jetties were going on as usual.
BSM Group chairman Abul Bashar Chowdhury said a foreign vessel laden with wheat and pea imported by them stood idle due to the strike and they had to pay US$ 14,000 a day as renal of the ship.
‘Apart from that, we have to count 16 per cent interest on the bank loan,’ Abul Bashar said, adding that the business community had been incurring huge losses to the recent spate of strikes.
Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association senior vice-president Kamal Hayat said importers and industry-owners were counting a daily loss of $300,000 as 14 foreign vessels laden with imported goods were standing idle.
Lighter Vessel Workers’ Union general secretary Nabi Alam said owners of lighter vessels in a meeting with shipping minister Shajahan Khan present on January 11 agreed to increase the workers’ salaries and allowances by 20 per cent.
‘But 70 per cent of the owners are yet to pay the increased salaries and allowances,’ he said, adding that it had left them with no other option but to go on the indefinite strike.
WTC executive director Mahabub Rashid said in the past, a lighter vessel used to carry goods twice a month but it had come down to once in two months in the recent period.
‘It is the reason why most of the vessel-owners have failed to pay their workers the increased salaries and allowances,’ he argued.
Source: New Age