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Lighterage vessel shortage hits Ctg maritime business

Monday, 03 February 2020 | 00:00

Lighterage ship shortages are hampering maritime trade, making slow the loading and unloading of goods from mother vessels for the crisis.

More or less 150 lighterage ships are needed to load and unload goods from mother vessels at Chittagong seaport.

Only 50 to 60 such ships are now doing the job, thus hindering port activities and also increasing the staying time of mother vessels at the port, sources said.

The ships are used for unloading goods like sugar, rice, clinkers, stones and other bulk cargoes from mother vessels.

They also transport imported goods to the port and other places of the country.

As a result, mother vessels stay at the port more than five to 10 days behind schedule, thus raising prices of the goods in the local market, said business leaders.

Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) secretary Omar Faruk said, “The draft of jetties is now reduced. Ships measuring upto 190 metres in length and having the draft of 9.5 metres can’t enter the port.”

“So, big ships have to wait at the outer anchorage and lighter ones are being used for loading and unloading goods from those.”

Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association chairman Ahasanul Haque said many lighter ships cannot unload goods for godown crisis. They have to stay afloat day after day.

According to water transport cell (WTC), 2,100 lighter ships got government licences, but an estimated 500 are operative now. Yet, many remain afloat loaded with cargoes day after day.

Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Mahabubul Alam said, “Lighter ship scarcity is hampering business. The government should permit duty-free import of such vessels to meet the crisis.”

There is also a shortage of jetties at the port, he observed.

“If the government permits building new lighter ships, it’ll need one to two years’ time. But we have to meet the immediate crisis and import duty-free ships soon.”

WTC co-convener Shafik Ahamed said, “We’re cancelling schedule almost regularly for lighter ship shortages. Importers now rent the ships for seven to 21 days.”

“But they are paying fines to shipping agents as they are failing to unload cargoes from other vessels within deadline,” he added.

Former CCCI director Mahafuzul Haque Shah said, “We can’t overcome the crisis of loading and unloading goods at the otter anchorage.”

Earlier, only 90 lakh tonnes of cargoes were imported at the port. But import has increased more than 10 times. So, new lighter ships are needed to handle this.

Anjan Shekhor Das, another former CCCI director, echoed Mr Shah on the same issue.

CPA member Mohammad Jafar Alam said the CPA has started capital dredging afresh after four long years of a halt to such work.

“CPA has to do the dredging again. It has initiated to dredge the newly-built jetty area at Sadarghat where lighter vessels are berthed.”

“After dredging, the draft will increase and big ships can easily enter the jetty,” Mr Alam added.
Source: The Financial Express

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