Narrow Karnaphuli River channel

Uncontrolled movement of ships pose collision risk

In the last ten years, the movement of the vessel on the Karnaphuli River Channel of Chattogram Port has almost doubled. Port officials feel that the risk of accidents is increasing due to uncontrolled movement of different types of vessels. The Chattogram Port is the gateway of bulk of the country’s export and import.

It’s a natural harbour of 16KM long, ‘Karnaphuli Bridge to Patenga’ waterway with maximum draft of 9.5 meters. A total of around 1,000 different types of vessels are moving every day in the narrow channel, having a width of 250 to 350 meters. In addition to movement of the large ocean going vessels for import-export, the restricted port channel is also used for the transportation of passengers and goods of coastal areas of Chattogram and a significant number of fishermen landing their catches. More over millions of the people of the two banks is dependent on their livelihood on the River Karnaphuli.

On Friday last, a feeder vessel collided with an oil tanker at the channel adjacent to the Boat Club area of Chattogram Port – halting marine traffic movement on the Karnaphuli River. A port source said, collisions between vessels in the port channel is common but sometimes the incident turn very serious when maritime traffic in the channel is completely hampered.

Captain M Shafiul Bari, Member (harbour and marine) of Chattogram Port said, “The movement of vessels in the Karnaphuli River channel is more than the capacity of the River. To maintain discipline in the flow of the vessels is a big challenge as many of the vessels do not follow the navigational rules.”

In 2018, more than 3,800 ocean going ships entered into Chattogram Port areas including outer anchorage of Bay of Bengal. However, in 2008 the number of vessels using the port was around 1900. Alongside the ocean going vessels, the number of lighter ships has also increased in order to transport the goods of the domestic route. Likewise, the number of traditional wooden boats for fishing, transport of passengers and goods has sharply increased.

“In order to avoid any kind of mid-river collision while ocean going ships are moving in the channel all movement of other vessels are kept suspended. Every day around 25 ocean going vessels move around the Karnaphuli River,” Captain M Shafiul Bari said. He also said on Friday when the feeder vessel from Sri Lanka collided with an oil tanker of international route, a local ship was on the way. Initially it seems that to save the local smaller ship from collisions the big vessels sacrificed. If the local small vessel was hit by one of the two big ships, the small ship would have been drowned. Then it would have been another disaster.”

He said “It has been possible to open port channel within three hours by removing the damaged vessels using our six tug boats.” Source said the width of the port channel in the Karnaphuli river ranges from 250 meters to 350 meters. Considering the width, the maximum length of 190 meters ships in the day and the length of the ships is 175 meters long at night is allowed to move. When crossing two ships as well, it is necessary to have at least 100-150 meters distance.

According to new master plan of Chattogram Port, to meet the demand of country’s ongoing economic growth, the projected container loading and unloading capacities would be gradually increased in phases. To meet the capacity, two container terminals at Patenga and Laldia at port channel of the Karnaphuli River are now under construction and they are expected to be in operation by 2020. The initiative would greatly relieve the existing problems and allow more vessels to cross the channel.