CHATTOGRAM: A section of importers are using bulk-head vessels instead of lighterage ships in carrying goods from mother vessels and big ships from the Outer Anchorage of Chittagong Port violating the law, putting other ships in the port channel at high risk.
Sources at the countgry's prime sea port said, some importers are engaging bulk-heads, which are defectively built and not fit to unload cargoes from larger ships at Outer Anchorage and ply at the port channel, for carrying imported goods, including stones and coals, from the mother vessels because of their cheaper rent comparing to that of lighterages.
They said carrying of cargoes including stones, coals, etc. by bulk-heads are posing risks to movement of other vessels at the river mouth. The bulk-heads can also sink in the Bay and cause damage to the port channels, they said.
A goods loaded bulk-head sank in the Dolphin jetty area of Chittagong Port on October 15 last year which damaged hampered the jetty and halted movement of other ships at the port channel for a few days, they mentioned.
Usually, lighterage ships are used to load and unload the cargoes and containers from mother vessels at the Outer Anchorage and the smaller and wrongly designed bulk-heads, which are not fit to go to Outer Anchorage and carry cargoes from the sea to shore, are made for carrying sands from river and also plying in a short distance, experts of maritime vessels said.
Due to the illegal business at the Outer Anchorage by the bulk-heads, lighterage vessels are being deprived of doing their normal business, alleged owners of some lightarages.
"Some importers are not renting our vessels. We are not getting schedule due to carrying of coals and stones by bulk-head vessels. As a result, many lighterages remained idle in Karnaphuly mouth and Sadarghat area for several days," alleged the owners of a good number of lighterages.
According to the Maritime Department, carrying of bulk goods particularly coal and stone by bulk-heads is highly risky for port channel. Usually, the bulk-heads are built by unqualified technicians or untrained makers without following the maritime safety regulations, officials at the department noted. Besides, the masters (pilot) of thebulk-head have no genuine certificates to drive the vessels in port area and Karnaphuli River mouth, they added.
Contacted, officials at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) said they have already imformed the Maritime Department about the matter. The government is taking action against the bulk-head vessels which are carrying cargoes from the mother vessels.
A BIWTC official told the FE that the bulk-head vessels have short draft and cannot ply in the rover mouth, port channels and the Bay. These vessels can only ply in rivers and carry sands within the short distance, he added.