When Bangladesh Shipping Corporation’s (BSC) ship MV Bangla Mamata reached an American port in 1991, 14 sailors left the ship and secretly went into the United States territory. Later, in an effort to bring them back the authorities sent a chief engineer, who too disappeared.
That incident hurt the image of the country as well as the BSC in the international maritime sector. Although the ship was later brought back, no Bangladesh flag carrier ship since then has gone to any American ports. During that period, more than a hundred Bangladeshi escaped into the US soil and the BSC has been under an unofficial ban to enter the United States.
After 31 years since that incident, a Bangladesh-flagged ship – MT Banglar Agragoti – has anchored at an American port again. The ship sailed from North American country El Salvador and reached the US port of Houston on 5 March. The ship is scheduled to reach the port in New Orleans on 21 March after unloading Cane Molasses at the Houston port until 16 March. From New Orleans the ship will take a shipment of some 33,000 tonnes of Soybean oil and head towards the Indian port of Kandla or Haldia.
The shipping industry insiders and the BSC think the resumption of ship movement to the US is a positive development.
Pijush Dutta, executive director (commerce) of the BSC told The Business Standard, “To enter an US port ships need to be of world class quality. There are many inspections. Overall quality including the safety mechanism in the current fleet of BSC ships is very good. These are equipped with all kinds of facilities to enter any top quality port in the world.”
He added that the security system of ships in 1991 or before is quite different from today’s security mechanism. Now, it is not possible for anyone to leave the ship and make illegal entry.
“Recently a BSC oil tanker MT Banglar Agradoot has shipped goods to an Australian port. This is also a great achievement,” said the BSC official.
MT Banglar Agragoti, which is currently at the US port with 27 Bangladeshi sailors on board, was built three years ago. Its carrying capacity is 38,928 tons. With a draft of 6.8 metres, the ship is 185 metres long and 28 metres wide.
Shipping goods to the US started in 1977 with the ship Banglar Maan.
According to BSC sources, because of no new addition of ships for a long time, movement of ships to ports around the world went down significantly and by 2018 the number of ships in BSC fleet was down to two, which was operational within inland sea ports.
However, in 2019, a total of eight new ships were added at a cost of Tk1,843 crore. Of these, three are bulk carriers and three are oil tankers.
Among the six new ships, the bulk carrier Banglar Samriddhi has been decommissioned after a Russian rocket shell hit the ship on 2 March when it was docked at the Ukrainian port of Olvia. Source: The Business Standard