Ferry strike paralyses seaports in Bangladesh

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 16:43

Dhaka: Ferry strike in riverine Bangladesh
that entered its fifth day today paralyzed the southern
seaports affecting trade and threatened the aviation industry
disrupting fuel supplies for flight operations, officials
said.

Shipping ministry officials said cargo handling at
southeastern Chittagong and southwestern Mongla seaports were
halted as cargo workers joined the strike, enforced by
Bangladesh River Vessel Workers` Federation, a combine of six
trade unions representing 1,50,000 workers demanding higher
wages.

Business leaders said the strike was affecting the
trade as mother vessels, stuck at the ports, were counting
losses because of overstay while Chittagong Port Authority
officials said 23 ships, laden with imported wheat,
fertiliser, cement clinker, salt and other goods, remained
stuck in the outer anchorage.

Shipping officials said another seven ships were
stranded at Mongla port and its anchorage, five of them laden
with food grains and one with urea fertiliser.

"The situation will take a serious turn if the strike
continues a few more days," Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and
Industry vice president MA Salam told newsmen yesterday.

Meanwhile, the Civil Aviation Authority in Dhaka asked
airlines to avoid Dhaka`s main Shahjalal International
Airportfor refueling due to looming jet fuel crisis as
suppliers warned their stock in Dhakaalmost exhausted for
disrupted supply lines.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that the airlines
feared the fuel crisis might force them to scrap scheduled
flights over the next few days.

"We are in communication with the Padma Oil (the lone
aviation fuel supplier) and called upon the shipping and
energy ministries to take immediate steps to restore the
supply system," Civil Aviation secretary Shafique Alam Mehdi
said.

The strike came as negotiations between the employers
and workers mediated by the government failed while the
striking workers yesterday sought Prime Minister Sheikh
Hasina`s interventions alleging that Shipping Minister
Shahjahan Khan "has failed to hold an impartial negotiation".

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA)
chairman Malek Mia told PTI that the transports in waterways
carry 27 per cent of passengers while their stake in
transporting goods was 17 per cent asd the country is
criss-crossed by 230 rivers.

In a desperate move to return the vessels in water
ways police arrested at least nine leaders of the striking
workers for "creating vandalism" and face trial under tough
Speedy Trial Tribunal in the past few days after the failed
tripartite talks.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - 16:43

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