The loading and unloading of goods from moored ships at Chattogram port have been halted from 12:01am Sunday as lighter vessel workers called for an indefinite strike putting forward a 10-point demand.
Transportation of goods by river from Chattogram to the whole country has been stopped, putting businesses in trouble.
Around 1,600 lighterage ships transport goods from the outer anchorage of Chattogram port to different parts of the country. These products include raw materials for cement, ceramics and steel industries, fertilisers, coal and consumables.
Nabi Alam, vice president of the Lighterage Workers' Union, said that the movement of lighter ships has been halted since Sunday midnight. General workers have stopped the unloading of goods from large ships anchored outside the port. At the same time, 18 private wharves in Majhir Ghat and Sadar Ghat areas have also stopped unloading goods from lighter ships.
Mahbub Rashid Khan, executive director of Water Transport Cell (WTC), an organisation of lighter ship owners, told The Business Standard, "WTC usually gives allocations to 70-80 lighter ships daily. No ship has been given allocation on Sunday due to strike by the vessel workers."
The 10-point charter of demands of the workers include setting a minimum wage of Tk20,000 along with the provision of appointment letters, identity cards and service books, setting up a contributory provident fund and seamen welfare fund to ensure social security along with food allowance and sea allowance, providing Tk10 lakh as compensation for accidents and deaths at work, stopping the ongoing activities of the supplying fuel oil through pipeline from Chattogram which is not in the best interest of the country.
Earlier, the lighter vessel workers had announced the suspension of goods transportation activities in lighter ships in Chattogram from 6am on 10 November putting forward a five-point demand including cancelling the lease of the Charpara ghat used for the departure and arrival of the lighter vessel workers, digging the estuary of the Sangu river and providing a safe harbour for the lighter ships.
The protest was later called off after beginning the process of cancelling the lease of Charpara wharf, which is used for the transportation of lighter ship workers in Patenga, and the decision not to take money from the workers at the wharf.