Owners of lighter vessels recently announced a 15 per cent increase in the fare for transporting imported goods on inland water routes due to the recent hike in fuel prices.

The new rates became effective from November 15, according to a circular from the Water Transport Cell (WTC), a private organisation that coordinates the allocation and schedules of lighter vessels.

Leaders of the Bangladesh Cargo Vessel Owners Association, Coastal Ship Owners Association of Bangladesh, Container Ship Owners Association of Bangladesh, Inland Vessel Owners Association of Chattogram, WTC Goods Agent Association, and WTC Local Agents Association took this decision during a meeting at a hotel in Dhaka on Monday, sources said.

The WTC coordinates around 1,800 lighter vessels engaged in unloading imported bulk cargoes from mother vessels at the outer anchorage of Chittagong Port and carrying the goods to some 40 destinations across the country through inland waterways.

According to the circular, the 15 per cent additional fare has been added to the existing fare mentioned in the WTC fare chart for transporting goods from Kutubdia, the outer anchorage of Chittagong Port and different ghats of Karnaphuli river to adjust to the increased price of diesel.

Besides, 15 per cent fare has been added to the existing additional charges taken for transporting corrosive goods like steel scraps, HR coil, coal and so on, it said.

A WTC official said it would previously cost an average of Tk 415 per tonne for transporting cement clinker or other raw materials of cement factories from Chattogram to Dhaka.

But now, the new fare for transporting these raw materials will be Tk 477 per tonne, he added.

Around 93 per cent of the country’s total imports are delivered to Chittagong Port, where around 70 per cent of them are released at the outer anchorage.

In 2020, around 1.47 crore tonnes of different types of imported cargoes were transported using the lighter vessels under WTC.

Importers expressed concern over the fare hike since it would affect prices of imported commodities as well as industrial products.

According to the importers, such fare hike would add additional cost of around Tk 75,000 to Tk 1 lakh for a medium size vessel which would raise costs of importers by over Tk 100 crore annually.

Abul Bashar Chowdhury, chairman of leading commodity importing firm BSM Group, said the increase in fare following the transport fare hike would increase overall transport cost for imported goods and it would surely have an impact on the commodity market affecting the consumers ultimately.

Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s President Mahbubul Alam said the WTC cannot increase the fare unilaterally and they should have discussed the matter with stakeholders like importers before taking such a decision.

Source : The Daily Star