The transport of goods from Chittagong to all over the country disrupted
The water transport workers have continued their indefinite countrywide strike for the second consecutive day on Wednesday to press home their 11-point demand.
The strike enforced by Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation started at 12:00am on Tuesday.
The demands include payment of salaries of the water transport workers as per the gazette announced in 2016, food allowance, health care equipment, provision of appointment letters, issuing identity cards and service books to workers, ensuring their social security, compensation of Tk10 lakh for those killed in workplace accidents and effective measures to stop extortion on the waterways.
Md Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Water Transport Workers' Federation told Dhaka Tribune they are yet to receive any formal proposal for negotiation.
“There are around 20,000 cargo and passenger vessels across the country. However, the passenger vessels have remained out of the purview of the strike. Around two lakh cargo vessel workers are now enforcing the strike spontaneously,” said Shah Alam.
Congestion at port and price hike
The transport of goods from Chittagong to all over the country has been disrupted due to the strike.
The unloading operations from mother vessels anchored at the outer anchorage of Chittagong port have been suspended since the strike was enforced.
Water Transport Cell (WTC) Joint Secretary Ataul Kabir Ranju told Dhaka Tribune that 709 vessels laden with around a million tons of goods such as wheat, sugar, clinker, tiles, and ceramic raw materials had been stranded at different jetties across the country due to the strike.
WTC coordinates the movement of individually owned lighter ships in Chittagong and nearby areas.
Businesspersons fear that they will be in trouble if the workers continue their strike.
They said the cost of doing business might go up due to the disruption in the unloading of consumer goods and raw materials.
"The port will face container and vessel congestion and the economy will have to bear the brunt if the deadlock continues," said Mahbub Chowdhury, vice president of Chittagong Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) President Mahbubul Alam on Tuesday wrote to Minister of State for Labour and Employment Begum Monnujan Sufian, asking her to take necessary steps to resolve the strike.
“Apart from disrupting the transportation of raw materials and goods, the strike will lead to container and vessel congestion at the port. The import-export costs of goods will shoot up due to the overstay and the increase of turnaround time of the vessels,” he said.
As a result, business persons would incur losses and consumers would have to purchase essential commodities at increased prices, he added.
Ahsanul Haque Chowdhury, president of Bangladesh Shipping Agents’ Association, said that they have to count an additional $10,000-15,000 if a mother vessel overstays for a day.
“Apart from the wastage of foreign currency, the country’s image in the maritime world will be tarnished due to the strike. That is why the issues should be resolved without least delay,” he said.