Bangladesh eyes shore leave facility at Indian ports

A two-day Bangladesh-India shipping secretary-level meeting will begin in Dhaka tomorrow with the hosts focusing on their seafarers’ shore leave facility at Indian ports, ministry sources said. They said Bangladeshi sailors have been deprived of the facility at Indian ports for long, though the Indian crewmen enjoy it at Bangladesh’s ports. The issue is among the 13 agendas Dhaka will table at the meeting, the sources said adding that Delhi will raise 18 issues for discussion. Bangladesh Shipping Secretary Abdus Samad and Indian Shipping Secretary Gopal Krishna will lead the meeting on behalf of their respective governments, the sources said. They said Bangladeshi vessel owners and operators have been continuously raising issues like smooth navigation of vessels, shore leave, and bunkering facilities in Indian ports for settlement. These will be on top of Bangladesh’s agenda at the secretary-level meeting, a shipping ministry official said yesterday.

He said other issues of Bangladesh’s 13 agendas include facilitation to introduce trade between Chilmari-Dhubri by shallow draft mechanised vessels, smooth management of passenger and cruise vessels, including issuance of on-arrival visa, faster customs and immigration arrangements, berthing facilities and night navigation, operationalising tripartite cross-border trade route, including the Nakugaon land port of Bangladesh and Dalu ICP of India, and further connecting with Gelephu of Bhutan, ease of Indian visa and shore leave facility for Bangladeshi seafarers, and inclusion of Cox’s Bazar and Dhamra ports as ports of call under the coastal shipping agreement.

The official said, India, as part of their 18 agends, will want inclusion of Mukhtarpur in Munshiganj, Narayanganj, and Pangaon as transshipment ports in Bangladesh. The Indian side will also propose facilitation of movement of “Third Country” EXIM trade on the PIWT&T route, inclusion of Jogighopa of India and Bangladesh’s Chandpur as new ports of call under the PIWT&T, inclusion of the Chandpur-Chittagong stretch in the coastal route of Bangladesh to ensure connectivity

between Chattogram and Kolkata’s Haldia, issuing of river notices of the Indo-Bangla protocol route, and inclusion of the Ichhamati River (India) as a new route under the PIWT&T for transportation of goods between India and Bangladesh through the IWT mode.

India will also propose modification of the coastal shipping agreement, SOP and PIWTT, inclusion of the VO Chidambarnar port (formerly Tuticorin port) and Kamarajar port under the coastal shipping agreement, amendment of Article 15 of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), review of 6,000 tonne limit under the coastal shipping agreement, extension of the PIWTT route upto Varanasi, finalisation of transit fees—computation for individual consignments and payment, declarations to be filed and supporting documents to be submitted in Bangladesh customs computer system, advance filing and processing of declarations, electronic lock and seal modalities, possibility of sharing tracking information, and entry of Bangladesh trucks into India—and the use of car press system at all LCSs agreed in the SoP on Chattogram and Mongla ports.

Asked about seafarers’ shore leave problems in Indian ports, the director general of the Department of Shipping, Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, said they will discuss the matter at the meeting. “We will discuss various issues, such as development of the 74km long Rajshahi-Pakshi waterways under the joint dredging programme on 80:20 basis,” Commodore M Mahbub-ul Islam, chairman of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), told The Independent yesterday (Monday). He also said Bangladesh will propose inclusion of the Nakugaon land port of Bangladesh on the route to use Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India. According to DoS sources, despite international laws to avail of foreign port facilities, Bangladeshi sailors allegedly face harassment by different port authorities abroad, such as absence of facilities for ship pilots, refusal of permission to disembark from the vessels along with visa problems and shore leave.

The authorities of those countries do not allow Bangladeshi sailors to disembark from ships on the plea of security.

The sources further said Bangladeshi sailors were unable to sign on or off at foreign ports.

The sailors need to sign on or off after completing their job period at any port in the world, the sources added.

According to DoS sources, Bangladeshi sailors face various problems at different ports in India, America, Singapore, Dubai, and Saudi Arabia and the authorities of the countries concerned refuse to let Bangladeshi sailors disembark from ships on the plea of security. As per the International Labour Convention, 1958 (No-108) under Article 6: “1. Each Member shall permit the entry into a territory for which this Convention is in force of a seafarer holding a valid seafarer’s identity document, when entry is requested for temporary shore leave while the ship is in port. 2. If the seafarer’s identity document contains space for appropriate entries, each Member shall also permit the entry into a territory for which this Convention is in force of a seafarer holding a valid seafarer’s identity document when entry is requested for the purpose of—(a) joining his ship or transferring to another ship; (b) passing in transit to join his ship in another country or for repatriation; or (c) any other purpose approved by the authorities of the Member concerned.”

It is mandatory for the ship authorities concerned to allow sailors to disembark from their ships under international maritime laws, the DoS sources said.