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Shipping sector in disarray

  • Published at 10:34 am September 3rd, 2019
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Representational photo UNB

It is not the first case of corruption against shipping department surveyor or engineers

The latest arrest of a surveyor of the Department of Shipping in Dhaka, for allegedly taking a bribe, yet again sheds light on the rampant corruption in issuing registration and re-registration, fitness certificate, and bay crossing permission in the shipping sector of the country.

A team of Anti Corruption Commission (ACC), led by its director Akhter Hossain, conducted a drive yesterday in Dhaka's Motijheel, where the surveyor Mirza Saifur Rahman was caught red-handed accepting Tk2 lakh as bribe for issuing a fitness certificate.

Commission officials said Saifur Rahman demanded Tk3 lakh as bribe to conduct a survey, and to do fitness test for a ship named Khadizatul Kobra, and was was caught red handed by the ACC team when the ship’s authorities met Saifur to pay the bribe.

It is not the first case of corruption against shipping department surveyor or engineers.

Earlier in April 2018, chief engineer and surveyor of the shipping department SM Nazmul Huq was arrested by an ACC team while taking a bribe of Tk5 lakh for approving a ship's design.

In July 2017, another team of anti graft watchdog caught the former chief engineer of the same department AKM Fakhrul Islam while he was taking bribe from Bengal Marine and Engineering Services. He was later suspended.

There are widespread allegations that shipping department officials solicit bribes from vessel owners to speed up the process for obtaining different certificates, and services.

Currently, over a lakh unregistered boats are plying on Bangladesh’s rivers, while 11,418 inland vessels were registered from 1952 to 2017 including passenger launches, passenger boats, cargo vessels, goods carrier, bulkheads, oil tankers, dredgers, ferries, tugboats, speed boats, and barges. 

The DoE also registers ocean going ships, coasters, passenger ships, tankers, and fishing trawlers.

National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) General Secretary Ashis Kumar Dey alleged to Dhaka Tribune that there are thousands of complaints raised against shipping department officials with regards to approval of design, obtaining fitness, and for surveys.

“About Tk10 to Tk20 lakh bribe are charged for approval of shipping designs. The safety of waterway passengers depend on the proper design of water vessels, and when it is provided in exchange of bribe, the safety and security comes under grave risk,” he said.

When the two officials were earlier arrested on bribe allegations, we made demands to the shipping ministry to form high-powered experts committee to investigation into the incidents, which has not been done by the ministry, he claimed.

Ashish demanded formation of a high-powered expert committee, consisting of experts from different sectors, to check the records of design approval, registration, and survey in last 10 years, and investigate corruption in the shipping department.

Commodore Syed Ariful Islam, Director General at Department of Shipping said they have digitalised the whole application process for registration of survey, selection of a surveyor, and to help applicants get their certificates while sitting at home.

“We are going into the whole digital system which will not have any loophole for corruption. We will check the incident of bribery against our officers, and will find out if there were any flaws from our side,” he said.

He asked people to file a complaint if there are any allegations, or do the processing via digital methods, instead of paying any bribe to his departmental officials.

At least 20,508 people were killed in waterway accidents across the country between 1967 and 2016, according to NCPSRR.

Movable assets, excluding human resources, equivalent to Tk3,417.20 crore were also destroyed in the 2572 accidents that took place during the period, it adds.