127 river vessels remain idle for about 2 years

Various river vessels worth Tk 2021 crore belonging to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) are on the verge of sustaining mechanical destruction as most of them remain unused for about two years.

BIWTA sources said that a total of 127 water vessels, including 30 heavy dredgers purchased for excavating accumulated sediments in the river to beds, are gathering dust for months as the issue of recruiting the required manpower to operate the vessels, is still not yet finalized.

As a result, different types of these water vessels remain uncared at different shipyards since long, hampering river dredging activities as well as the movement of water transports across the country.

According to BIWTA official sources, those 127 water vessels have been purchased at a cost of Tk 2021 crore under two separate projects. Sadly, however, despite getting vessels in hand, hiring the vessel operators was not coordinated to coincide with the arrival of the vessels so that the vessels could be put to use immediately after their shipment.

Sources said that the crisis was created as the Ministry of Finance did not approve the proposal from the Shipping Ministry to create the required manpower although in the project clearance document there was a proposal to create the positions of the vessel operators and recruit them accordingly.

Mohammad Mejbah Uddin Chowdhury, Secretary ofShipping Ministry said, “These vessels not could not be used simply due to lack of manpower. However, recently an approval for the creation of 1,601 posts has been received from the Finance Ministry. Hopefully more manpower would be added as soon as possible.” 

According sources concerned, the Ministry of Shipping in August 2017 had sent a proposal to the Ministry of Public Administration to create 1,919 posts under two separate projects. In these projects, 30 dredgers and 97 various other machineries and equipment were purchased by BIWTA. The Ministry of Public Administration, however, sanctioned 1,601 posts by reducing 318 posts.

Abdur Rauf Talukder, Secretary of Finance Department, said, "I have no knowledge about this.”

However, an additional secretary of the finance department said that a proposal for creation of new posts has been received. The proposal will be reviewed and then taken up for the approval.

According to Shipping Ministry sources, 112 water vessels, including 20 dredgers, were procured at a cost of Tk 1,735 crore under one of the two projects. At least 95 out of 112 water vessels have been added to the BIWTA fleet. 

Besides, under the second project, 38 water vessels, including 10 dredgers, were purchased at a cost of Tk 286 crore. 

In 2018, the largest dredgers named Bangali, Bishkhali, Bangshi, Baleshwar, Brahmaputra and Barak were added to the BIWTA fleet. The cost of each dredger was Tk 63 crore. Sadly all the vessels remain idle due to lack of required operators of the vessels.

Besides, four dredgers are now kept at Shimulia while one at Khulna and another at Paturia. Each of these four dredgers requires at least 20 different operators, but there are only about 6 operatorshired on temporary basis.

On the other hand, BIWTA in 2016 had taken over seven survey ships, which had been purchased for determining depth of rivers for surveys. But all these ships, along with three more water vessels, are now lying idle. Several other water vessels are also remaining idle due to the same reason.