The steel producing companies of the country are in trouble as imported scraps, raw materials for the steel industry, are looted regularly on the way from Chattogram Port to the factories in the Sitakund region.
As a result, steel manufacturers count losses to the tune of around Tk25 crore per year, according to industry insiders.
Most of the country's largest steel mills are located in a 12-kilometer area stretching from Faujdarhat on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway to Sitakund upazila sadar in the district. Top steel factories, including BSRM, KSRM, AKS Steel, GPH Ispat, SARM and RSRM, are located in this area. Besides, BSRM has several factories in the city's Nasirabad.
According to sources, looting and theft have been taking place on the way while scraps are transported from the port to the factories. On 6 September last year, a group of looters attacked a scrap-carrying truck at the Citygate area in the city. At the time, the attackers suffocated a security guard, named Abul Hashem Nirab, 19, who was in the truck, to death.
According to police sources, half a dozen cases have been filed over scrap-looting with Akbar Shah, Halishahar, Pahartali, Double Mooring and Sitakund police stations in Chattogram. More than 30 people have been arrested in these cases, but the stealing is still going on.
According to the authorities of BSRM, the country's largest steel company, from July to December 2021, the company imported 276,000 metric tonnes of scrap. About 917 metric tonnes of scrap, worth around Tk5.5 crore, were looted on the way to the factory.
Tapan Sen Gupta, Deputy Managing Director of BSRM, told The Business Standard: "Looting and stealing of scrap is on the rise day by day, posing a big threat to our industry. We are making some arrangements for our own security, but it yet shows no sign of stopping."
According to police sources, the distance from Chattograp Port to Sitakund is about 35 kilometers. The lootings take place at 30 spots along this road. The highest number of robberies occurs in the area, stretching from Toll Plaza on Port Link Road under Bandar Police Station to Shukatara intersection at Akbar Shah Police Station. Scrap looting occurs in this part every few days.
Scrap theft with driver's connivance
According to the steel factories' own investigations, drivers are involved in the scrap theft in most of the cases.
Factory sources said the drivers take the scrap-loaded truck to any nearby warehouse, leaving the road. There the accomplices in the theft break down the seal and unload a portion of the scrap. They seal the consignment again to cover up the whole incident. Then the drivers take the truck to the factory, unload the goods and leave the spot before the authorities realise anything.
According to GPS Ispat, the company lost scraps worth Tk28 crore in 2021. Besides, KSRM, AKS Steel and other companies also count an average loss of Tk4-5 crore annually, said sources concerned.
Mohammad Almas Shimul, Additional Managing Director of GPH Ispat, told TBS, "A vested group has taken scrap theft as a profession. It is increasing day by day. We are in a very helpless situation. Each company is arranging its security separately. If integrated security measures can be taken, it will be more effective."
Chattogram Metropolitan Police Commissioner Saleh Mohammed Tanvir said, "We are monitoring the cases that have been filed regularly. Those involved in scrap theft and buying stolen scrap are being brought under the law."
"Trucks carrying scrap run throughout the day. It is not possible to monitor the transportation all the time. We have told the companies that if they take out 10-15 trucks at a time, we will try to provide security. Besides, the Detective Branch and south and west divisions of Chattogram Police are working separately in this regard. A security route is also being worked out," he added.