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.


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

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