If explored untapped waterways can help reduce transportation costs
Waterways across the country offer low cost and safe transportations of goods while many other logistics services such as road transports are fuelling higher costs. The country has strong river ports based transport infrastructure and over one and a half century motorized vessels plied in river routes.
Many believe as the road transport costs is steadily rising the existing maritime facilities could be used with few policy supports to develop it as cheaper alternative to road transport in the domestic sector.
President, American Chambers of Commerce in Bangladesh (AmCham) Syed Ershad Ahmed said this while talking with the Daily Observer.
He said due to opening of Padma Bridge a large numbers of launches and other marine transports have already become inoperative. But if they are now used for transportation of goods in the southwestern districts, transportation cost will come down to lowering prices of industrial and consumer goods.
He said over 700 passenger launches now ply in river routes including 200 from Dhaka and at least 70 on Dhaka-Barishal route. The southwestern districts are becoming a major hub for agricultural products and new industries are spreading around Mongla Port, Padma Bridge and other economic zones. They need affordable transport cost and services which river routes can offer.
In 2005, only two passenger launches were operating on Dhaka-Tazumoddin-Hatia route, now eight launches ply, Syed Eeshad said pointing at a phenomenal rise in the number of vessels, especially on the Barishal, Borguna, Pirojpur, Patuakhali and Jhalokathi routes said river dredging and training can make the routes efficiently operable.
Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association (BAFFA) Kabir Ahmed, President, said river routes are blessings for Bangladesh. Goods transportations in maritime routes are safe, cheaper and time friendly. It can reach every corner of the country particularly the coastal zones at favorable cost. In roadways fragile goods are not safe, waterways is safe.
He said both ODC (over dimensional cargoes) and heavy lifting cargoes could be safely transported in river routes. The river draft in the country is now better, at least 12 feet draft on an average is workable.
The BAFFA president said due to opening of Padma Bridge massive industrialization and other economic activities will increase in river based 21 southwestern districts and these rivers can be tapped with few steps to boost trade.
Shahidul Islam Bhuiyan, Secrtary General, Bangladesh Launch Owners Association said, "Before opening of the Padma Bridge my own company did operate 8 launched from Sadarghat. But now it is operating only four launches with limited passengers. "It is a huge loss for everyday maintenance and to pay employees and bank loans with high interest," He said he has decided to covert four launches to cargo vessels to carry goods in river routes; it makes sense as the business outlook is changing.
He said Gulistan-Sadarghat traffic jam is a big problem and launch owners are planning to sit with the senior government officials to seek widening the road to meet changing demands.