A new rule gives state ships near-exclusive right to carry government-funded cargo although the shipping organisation is equipped with only a small number of vessels, sources said.
The Ministry of Shipping (MoS) issued the Bangladesh Flag Vessel (protection of interests) rule which is framed with a provision of mandatory transportation of government-funded goods by the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC).
The rule says if the state-owned shipping corporation's ships are insufficient or ships are unavailable, then the government goods will be transported in accordance with the public procurement act 2006, international laws, existing regulations concerned, and chartering committee's ground rules.
The MoS framed the rule under the Bangladesh Flag Vessels (protection of interest) of 2019 on February 05.
People in the shipping industry told the FE that the BSC has no container vessels to carry containerized goods belonging to the Bangladesh government.
They also said the BSC has now eight bulk carriers with total deadweight tonnes of more than 262,000, too inadequate to carry government goods.
"How the BSC will carry government goods at a time when their fleet is small to transport the government goods?" asked an official working with a foreign shipping company.
However, the rule allows transport of commercial goods in coastal areas by foreign ships, if a foreign ship licensed with an exemption certificate to transport commercial goods of Bangladesh in coastal areas, for a period of three months. More than 50 per cent of the total manpower needs to be hired locally.
But such vessels ought to appoint cent-percent local crew when afloat for one year or more in coastal areas transporting goods.
The rule also provides that a monitoring committee headed by the director-general of the Shipping Department should be formed.
One competent officer will be nominated by the BSC and not more than four members nominated by the government from among the relevant stakeholders. The chief nautical surveyor of the department of shipping will act as member-secretary of the committee.
The monitoring committee will determine the procedures of its meetings and meet at least twice a year.
The BSC, however, is going to purchase six ocean-going vessels from South Korea at a cost of USD 351 million for carrying bulk cargo under a credit programme. The first two ships are set to be delivered by 2024 and the rest by 2026. If and when available, these ships will enhance capacity of the BSC.