Foreign container feeder vessels plying to and from Bangladesh seaports are allegedly facing inordinate delays in getting’waiver certificate’ which is mandatory for them before loading cargo, apparently as shipping rush ebbs.

The Bangladesh Flag Vessels Protection Act 2019 coupled with the recently published shipping rules prioritised Bangladeshi flag-carrier ships to transport cargos calling at the country’s ports.

If any Bangladeshi-flagged ship has presence at any port in the world, they will get priority to carry Bangladesh-bound containers and the same is applicable to export cargos, too.

The rules provide that any foreign vessel will have to seek waiver from the Mercantile Marine Office 15 days before the loading schedule. Thereafter, the marine office will forward the application to Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC) and Bangladesh Oceangoing Ship-owners Association (BOGSOA) for no-objection clearance.

The marine office will then collect the all-clear from the duo and let the shipping agents know within three working days.

However, foreign shipping agents lament that instead of three workdays, nowadays, they need to wait over a week to get waiver certificate and that it comes as a blow to them when cargo flow has gone down significantly amid global economic crises.

The BSC has some bulk carriers while a private Bangladeshi company has eight container vessels, which together can carry a tenth of the country’s total in-and outbound containerised cargoes.

These two Bangladeshi organisations have some oceangoing container and bulk-carrier ships.

As such, the executive committee of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association (BSAA) Thursday had a meeting with its members who already faced delays in getting waiver certificate.

BSAA Chairman Syed Mohammad Arif told the FE after the meeting that nearly a dozen ships already faced the delay and some shipping agents submitted in writing about the troubles they are experiencing.

“Some ships even received clearance for one-way traffic which means after leaving Chittagong port they will have to wait in the transhipment ports for days and weeks to get another waiver certificate,” he said.

Mr Arif also denounced the provision of submitting waiver application 15 days before a scheduled trip. “When a vessel needs only eight days for a round trip, the necessity of submitting application 15 days before is illogical.”

He said when the number of flag vessels is only eight against 90 foreign ships plying to and fro Bangladesh, the matter “needs to be handled keeping in mind the interest of other vessels as well”.

The association chairman said he would take the issue with the ministry of shipping, marine office, and the department of shipping for a solution.

Captain Sabbir Mahmood, Principal Officer, Mercantile Marine Office, told the FE in the past when cargo flow was adequate, both BSC and the Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners’ Association (BOGSOA) had provided clearance shortly after submission of application.

However, with cargo flow waning significantly, the BOGSOA is taking time to give clearance as their members themselves face cargo crisis.

“We are putting pressure on BOGSOA for providing clearance in time,” he said.

BOGSOA president Azam J. Chowdhury made a point that there is flag-protection act everywhere in the world which helps local shipping industry to grow.

“We are working with the department of shipping to develop a mechanism to provide waiver clearance quickly,” he said, adding that until then, the foreign ships will have to stay calm.

He said the newly proclaimed rules created some problems which “we are trying to mitigate”.
Source: Financial Express