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EID CELEBRATIONS & OUR SEAFARERS

F R Chowdhury:

 

Hadisur Rahman, Third Engineer on board “Banglar Samridhi” was an innocent victim of an unnecessary war between Russia and Ukraine. He died when working on a ship owned by the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (state owned enterprise). Neither the ship nor any of the crew members had anything to do with the growing tension between Russia and Ukraine. It was an innocent merchant ship engaged in world trade and commerce that also promote better understanding, goodwill and friendship among nations. In a way Hadisur died in the line of duty for his country.

Life at sea is full of risk and hazard. We all know that. That is why wages at sea is comparatively higher than jobs ashore. Ship’s P&I (protection and indemnity) insurance has set rule for compensation for death or disability; and it is not understood why the benefit has not been paid to Hadisur’s family as yet. What has the BSC administration done so far? It is their duty to ensure that the victim’s family is duly compensated on time. Justice delayed is very much like justice denied. The director-general of shipping (as head of the national maritime administration) has a duty to see that in case of a death a Bangladeshi seafarer’s family is duly compensated on time. Obviously the question is what they have done in this respect. Higher position not only gives better salary and status but also higher responsibility. It is now time for question and answer.

I still remember the day the surviving seafarers returned to Bangladesh. Neither the ship-owner (managing director of BSC) nor the maritime administration (director general of shipping) was present in the airport. The minister probably never realized that by becoming the minister in charge of shipping he became the ultimate guardian of the entire maritime community. None of them could identify their link with the community which has a massive contribution to the development of the country. To them their own rank, position and status were more important than the reason they were employed for.

The situation was not any different on the day Hadisur’s body returned to Bangladesh. When the dead-body reached Borguna, the local MP Advocate Dhirendra Debnath was there. A naval officer perhaps from nearby Coastguard or Naval base/ unit was also there. May God bless them. But Hadisur’s sacrifice demanded more than that.

The prime minister often rewarded our players and sportsman for achieving glory for the nation. Sometimes such rewards exceeded our expectation. Every Bangladeshi seafarer, by virtue of job and profession, work as an unofficial ambassador of the country. Hadisur gave his life while working for the country. I request the government to kindly reward his sacrifice as deemed appropriate.

I think it is also time for government to re-think about automatic appointment of naval officers in civil administration, especially in key maritime positions. As discussed above, they failed to respond in time of need. The government should find competent and capable persons for these jobs, no matter what background they relate to.

A few days back I wrote about how Bangladesh failed to attend the extra-ordinary meeting of the IMO Council which was called immediately after the rocket attack on Bangladesh ship. As far as I know our High Commissioner in London is also our representative to IMO. Why she could not attend the meeting and speak out our view-points? It is time we should have an officer exclusively looking after IMO matters. I draw the attention of the prime minister as to why the person nominated by the ministry of shipping and approved by the prime minister cannot still join his job in London. I hope the government will see to it.

London, 01-May-2022      [email protected]