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i-maritime News Service

A tale of two vessels - 2012-09-05

For more than 40 days, two vessels (barges), one carrying Indian flag and the other Bangladeshi, have remained detained at Kolkata dock system though not exactly for the identical reason. However, there is a common thread — both the vessels loaded wheat for exports to Bangladesh and the exporter is the same. The exporter is a Kolkata-based commodity trader while the importer is Bangladesh Government, it is learnt.

The Bangladeshi vessel has been detained for allegedly violating more than one rule. First, it allegedly loaded wheat earmarked for distribution through the public distribution system for BPL (below poverty line) category people in West Bengal. Second, the vessel, it is further alleged, was not supposed to load wheat at all; the permission granted to it was for loading fly ash at a Hooghly river jetty close to a power plant. The master of the vessel, a Bangladeshi national, has since been released but the vessel remains detained.

Wheat loaded in the Indian vessel, however, is not earmarked for consumption of the BPL people. Yet, the vessel is detained because the exporter of wheat in both the vessels is the same and he is reportedly absconding. The authorities concerned therefore will not spare the Indian vessel either. The Indian vessel owner is in a dire strait. “The exporter asked for a vessel for wheat export to Bangladesh and we placed it, knowing little about the origin of the cargo,” the owner told Business Line.

“But I’m now being required not only to cough up daily berth hire to port authorities as my vessel is occupying a berth but also face a barrage of queries from different government agencies for no fault of mine.’’ He has reportedly appealed to the Inland Waterways Authority of India and other authorities concerned for an early release of the vessel but in vain. Meanwhile, the cargo is rotting. The size of the cargo on board is estimated at 3,500 tonnes of wheat — 2,800 tonnes in Indian vessel and another 700 tonnes or so in Bangladeshi vessel.

Source : Hindu Business Line