Bangladesh’s Mercantile Marine Department (MMD) has fined Trident Shipping Line Ltd US$5,000 for its container ship Kanway Fortune carrying cargo bound for the port of Chittagong in violation of the law regarding the interests of national flag carriers .
The ship loaded cargo at a Malaysian port last month without receiving a waiver certificate from the MMD.
Under the Bangladesh Flag Vessels Protection Act 2019 and subsequent regulations, possession of a waiver certificate is mandatory for foreign vessels to carry cargo to and from Bangladesh ports.
According to officials, a Bangladeshi flagship, namely the HR HERA, was present at the port during Kanway Fortune’s cargo loading. According to the rules, the HR HERA should have priority when loading cargo to Bangladesh.
Kanway Fortune applied for a waiver certificate from MMD on March 1 by submitting an online application. MMD then forwarded the application to the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC) and the Bangladesh Ocean Going Shipowners Association (BOGSOA) and asked them not to raise any objections.
However, since HR HERA was also in port, after receiving the comments of BSC and BOGSOA, MMD refused to issue a waiver to Kanway Fortune and informed Trident Shipping Line of the decision.
The authority of Kanway Fortune, a Hong Kong-flagged container ship built in 2022 with a deadweight tonnage of 1,930 TEU, ignored the rules and sailed towards Chittagong with the loaded cargo.
Therefore, on March 15, MMD fined Trident Shipping Line $5,000 under Section 7 of the Bangladesh Flag Vessels Protection Act 2019 and ordered the operator to deposit the money.
Kazi Shahidullah, chief executive officer of Trident Shipping Line, confirmed receipt of a letter from MMD fining the company. However, he said the law favored local ships but went beyond the interest of foreign ships, seriously hampering their business.
He pointed out that the local shipping company is trying to snatch up foreign operators’ cargo by abusing the flag protection law because it can’t get cargo because it charges high freight rates.
Syed Mohammad Arif, chairman of the Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association, pointed out that foreign vessels calling at ports in Bangladesh have been facing serious problems since the law’s rules came into force last month.
He said many ships were experiencing delays in receiving waivers while some were cleared for one-way traffic, hampering their operations.
Arif stressed that one ship has been withdrawn from the Chittagong route as the ships continue to face waiver-related issues while many operators may reconsider their operations towards the Bangladesh port.
According to official figures, nearly 90 foreign ships sail to and from Bangladesh, of which only eight are flag ships.