An Icon of Safe Transportation
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Bangladesh is full of crop greeneries with plenty of rivers and high yielding soil. The rivers spread like a network all over the land. They have different origins outside the country but falls together to the Bay of Bengal, the water-belt of the land. Following the natural process sometimes few rivers meet together and form a single channel with single name to fall in the Bay through estuary/tidal mouth. Nearby, a safer place serves as an Anchorage leading to a Sea Port aiming to keep seaway communication with foreign countries.
There are two Sea Ports, namely Chittagong and Mongla, established in the coastal belt of Bangladesh. These Ports are keeping sea communication between Bangladesh and other parts of the world. During 17th century, when the activities of Portuguese pirates and infiltration of their goods increased in the river basins of different region of Bangladesh, Chittagong Port became more important to the foreigners. At that time one had to effect shipment of goods through seaways. In addition to rivers, communication activity with Chittagong Port further extended by railways during British reign. The importance of Chittagong Port increased to a great extent after invention of technology to build additional road-communication during 19th and 20th centuries. By now, 90% of the foreign trades of Bangladesh are carried out through Chittagong Port.
This Port of Chittagong is situated on the bank of river Karnaphuly and adjoining anchorage of the bay. About 1 million TUES of container cargo and more than 15 million tons of general cargo are being handled with 10% increase every year. This Port has spacious yard, sheds equipped with handling facilities and skilled manpower. This has significant achievement in minimizing the handling cost and lessening the plight of end-users. The average berthing time of cargo laden vessel has come down significantly compared to the performance a few years back. It is glorifying.
Being the doorstep of arrival and departure of export import cargo, Chittagong Port, by its communication through sea, road and rail, not only serves the export import activity of the country rather it is also ready to serve the landlocked areas of the neighboring countries. Upon establishment of World Trade Centre at Chittagong, the Port may become the regional hub of the South Asian external trade exercise. Recently, Chittagong has been declared as the Commercial Capital of the country giving due importance to the Sea-Port, which is now ‘Gateway of Bangladesh’ – the basement of foreign trade.
Chittagong Port Authority (CPA), the operating and controlling authority of the Port, works directly under the Ministry of Shipping. Government and semi-government organizations like Ministries of Food and Disaster Management, Agriculture, Finance, Communication, Commerce, Labor and Industry including their allied offices, Departments, Directorates, Branches, BIWTA, BIWTC etc are connected with the activity of Chittagong Port.
There are some other non-government communities and trade bodies like Chittagong Chamber of Commerce & Industries (CCCI), Ship Owners, Lighter Owners, Truck Owners, Stevedores, Shipping Agents, Handling Agents, C & F Agents, Fish Exporters, Jute and Jute goods Exporters, Garment Exporters, Vehicle Importers etc, who are also connected with the activity of the Port. All these communities have separate identity and association. In this ceaseless and diligent work-sphere, inter-actions are normally being undertaken by and between two or more government and government, government and semi-government, government and non-government, non-government and semi-government, non-government and non-government organizations even for a single assignment with different responsibilities.
Main stakeholders are the main partners of the Port who need to work and contribute remarkably to accelerate the performance for overall achievement of the Port. To this effect, time to time there may be a lack of adjustment or delayed adjustment or there may be dispute arising out of the situation. Joint effort and mutual understanding may resolve such disputes reducing the cost and quickening the process of concluding each and every assignment concerning the Port, which will in turn render time and money saving facilities to the end users.
Taking this into consideration, Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association (BCVOA) and the Coastal-Ship Owners Association of Bangladesh (COAB), meeting the increasing time oriented demand for enrichment, jointly established a new Platform of the Lighter Owners in the name of Water Transport Cell (WTC) with a view to play catalytic role in the progress and development of this maritime Port by working together with the others concerned creating a congenial atmosphere with mutual understanding and attitude of service.
The need of establishing Water Transport Cell was a long cherished desire of the Lighter Owners, since, prior 2004 there were huge disputes in the navigation sector, specifically in every transaction. Lighter Owners were not in a position to get the freight at actual. There was no direct connection between the Lighter Owners and the Importers. Collecting higher freight from importers and providing lowest possible freight to the Lighter Owners was a daily practice of a class of people for whom the entire transportation sector was in a turmoil. There was huge rise and falls, ups and downs in the freight management and as such the sector itself became a mess just due to transactional disputes and indiscipline. Under the circumstances, initially, during the year 2005 WTC was established particularly to operate and control almost 400 Lighters for transporting various cargo commodities to different destinations countrywide in order to ensure:
- Smooth movement of Export/Import cargo from Chittagong Port/Outer Anchorage to different inland destination around the country implementing the lowest transportation rate aiming to keep the market prices of essential commodities at a reasonable level.
- Restoration of the supply chain of essential commodities across the country keeping excellent co-ordination and co-operation among the main stakeholders like Ship-owners, Importers, Exporters, Agents etc.
- An accountable, transparent and friendly business environment in the event of transportation of cargo by inland/coastal vessels for the sustainable development of the economy of the country and for the greater interest of smooth productivity of Chittagong
Consequent upon its diversified and smooth operational activities in consonance with its par excellence services over the years, subsequently WTC has attained optimum reputation specially for:
- Reducing congestion of Mother Vessels at Chittagong Port area and cost of imported commodities by timely deployment of Lighters to every Mother Vessel for early discharge of its cargo and subsequent fast release and thus saving huge amount of foreign currency.
- Not deploying any Lighter for transporting any contraband items and also for the commodity against which government Duty and Taxes are not paid.
- Not deploying any Lighter without Registration and Fitness Survey so as to ensure collection of government revenue.
- Helping the government by collecting revenue from the Lighter Owner on account of Pilotage and Conservancy.
- Conveying fertilizer and food grain movement information to concern Ministry such as Ministry of Food, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Industry including BCIC, BGB, CPA etc.
- Monitoring each Lighter on the go so that none of the Lighters are able to divert to other destination with any ill motive.
- Maintaining a flat transportation rate (Lightering Freight) and creating very competitive edge in the event of keeping the market prices for the end-users at a reasonably lower stake.
- Ensuring immediate transportation of fertilizers to every corner of the country so as to enable time oriented proper cultivation program of the farmers.
- Enabling fast transportation of food grains to every disport in order to maintain market stability.
- Leading the stakeholder to a fair financial behaviour and motivating them towards amicable settlement of all disputes arising out of various situation aiming to maintain total discipline in the navigation sector.
In all fairness, WTC now operates as many as 750 Lighters having space capacity of approximately 9,00,000 Metric Tons and safely lightering more than 1,80,00,000 metric tons cargo commodity per annum. In Chittagong based navigation sector, WTC has transformed itself as an icon of safe and fast transportation.