Lighterage vessel owners' strike may be called off today
Jasim Uddin Haroon
Indefinite strike by lighterage vessel owners at the country's main sea port of Chittagong may be withdrawn today (Sunday) as the parties concerned reached a consensus on Saturday for offloading of the 'disputed-wheat' from cargo vessels.
Two water transport organisations and one of its allied organisation-Water Transport Coordination Cell (WTCC)-enforced the strike to get 24 cargo vessels laden with imported wheat released. The cargo vessels have remained stranded at the port channel since February last.
The parties involved at a meeting Saturday decided that the wheat would be stored in a private warehouse in Chittagong and the rent thereof would be borne by the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) primarily.
The Chittagong Customs, the Chittagong Port and the shipping agent concerned will jointly take care of the wheat until the disposal of the case.
They also decided that the wheat in question would be destroyed after another round inspection.
Officials of the CCH and the CPA as well as the leaders from Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) agreed on the issue at a meeting held at the CCCI conference hall on Saturday evening.
The meeting was going on until writing of this report on Saturday at 8pm.
MA Latif, vice president of the CCCI while talking with the FE on Saturday said they were trying to remove obstacles to the withdrawal of the strike.
The CCH at the meeting admitted its indifference and the CPA mentioned about their space constraint, he added.
"We are yet to reach a final agreement in this connection. Our meeting is going on and we do hope that a final consensus would be reached soon with a view to withdrawing the strike programme", he said.
Meanwhile, the loading and unloading activities at the Chittagong port remained suspended for the second day on Saturday.
The port channel became clogged with vessels because of the strike.
Port sources said loading and unloading of goods from 14 vessels remained suspended and more seven mother vessels entered the port channel on the day.
Acting president of the CCCI SM Nurul Hoque, moderated the negotiations while CCH Commissioner Mohammed Farid Uddin, CPA Director (Traffic) Md Ahsanul Kabir, Joint Commissioner of CCH participated.
Apart from these officials, directors of the CCCI Hasanuzzaman, Md Amirul Hoque, Md Anwar Shawkat Afser, Ershad Ullah, Mahfuzul Hoque Shah, Mahfuzul Alam from the BGMEA, Chairman of Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association Dr Pervez Sajjad Akter, Chairman of Cargo-coaster Association Md Shafi, also attended it.