Bangladesh’s port and shipping facilities will be scrutinised by a team of US Coast Guard next week after devastating fire and blasts at a Chittagong depot which killed 48 people and injured hundreds.

They will examine whether the facilities properly follow the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which focuses on maritime security including the minimum security arrangements for ships, ports and government agencies.

The four members’ team will visit the Chittagong port on 21 and 22 June, according to port officials, and will check any of the port operations-related facilities.

The team may also visit the inland container depots to check their safety and security setups. The port authority thus held a meeting with the operation managers of the depots on 14 June and asked them to remain prepared with all necessary documents which the team members may inquire.

Secretary General of Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association (BICDA) Ruhul Amin Sikder said some 35% of Bangladeshi export goods go to the US, thus the visit of the team is very important for Bangladesh as an exporting nation. “The port authority has asked us to remain up-to-date on compliance issues,” he pointed out.

BICDA president Nurul Kaium Khan said the depots have some sort of lapses and if those can be rectified, there is nothing to be worried about on the visit of the US Coast Guard team. “The fire and blast occurred in the depot is very serious,” he noted, adding proper steps have to be taken to avoid such incidences in the days ahead.

Khan believes that separate and safer storage systems have to be developed in the depots which handle dangerous cargoes. He said Dangerous Goods (DG) cargoes can only be sent to the depots which have adequate facilities to handle such items. “If needed the depot policy has to be changed,” he highlighted.

Meantime, the Chittagong Port Authority has requested the government to cancel the license of importers who bring DG cargoes through false declaration, after two such occurrences were detected.

On 13 May, fire occurred in a container at a Chittagong port yard which was carrying pencil battery. Firefighters achieved to douse the blaze before it goes out of control. However, according to documents submitted to the customs department, the container was supposed to carry LED light.

On 7 May, a similar fire occurred at Kamalapur inland container depot in Dhaka, where the shipper placed false documents regarding the import cargo.

Carriers show unwillingness to carry DG cargo
Meanwhile, apart from showing unwillingness to carry outbound DG cargoes, the carriers now show less interest to carry inbound chemicals-laden boxes.

After the depot incident, HMM said it will keep stopping carrying DG cargo import until the port and customs authority ensure that DG-laden containers discharge on chassis only.

However, Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAA) in a letter to its members insisted that they should continue carrying DG cargoes by following strict compliance.

All of you are hereby informed that after the occurrence of serious disaster at BM Container Depot Limited on 04 June, serious fear and anxiety have been created among shipping sector in handling DG Cargo and they are reluctant to involve themselves in import/export of the same.” said the BSAA.

The association added, “In view of the above and to overcome the present situation, all member shipping agents are requested to continue import/export of DG cargo as usual upon strict compliance of existing rules and procedures.”

Source: Container News


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Issue 79 of Robban Assafina  

(May./June 2022)



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