The Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC), the state-owned oceangoing ships management authority, has made an insurance claim of around $22.8 million from the Sadharan Bima Corporation for the Banglar Samriddhi ship, which has been abandoned in Ukraine after a rocket attack.
"We have made the insurance claim following all international rules and regulations. The insurer will now complete necessary procedures and pay the claim," said Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, the state minister for shipping, who also serves as ex officio chairman of the BSC board.
Banglar Samriddhi, which belongs to the shipping corporation, was hit by a rocket while anchored in the Alvia port channel of Ukraine on 2 March during the Russia-Ukraine war.
The merchant ship was chartered under an agreement with the Danish Charter Delta Corporation.
The front of the ship got damaged in the missile attack and its third engineer Hadisur Rahman was killed. However, the 28 other sailors have been evacuated and are expected to arrive home on Wednesday.
After the attack, the Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers' Association claimed that the shipping corporation was wrong to send the ship to Ukraine even after the Joint War Committee declared the place a war zone.
Marine Engineer Md Shakhawat Hossain, general secretary of the association, has called for forming a high-level committee to investigate the matter.
Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said, "The ship has been abandoned following all procedures properly. Now a search is underway to find watchmen to look after it although it will be difficult to get anyone for this job given the war."
"Some people say it was not a right decision to send the ship amid the war. But, there was no mistake in sending the ship because there was no embargo on entering the port when the ship reached there. As it is a merchant ship, there was no scope to avoid the trip," he added.
In fiscal 2018-19, the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation purchased six ships – three oil tankers and three bulk carriers. And the Banglar Samriddhi is a bulk carrier.
China has given a loan of Tk1,500 crore to the Bangladesh government for 20 years to buy these six ships.
After purchasing the ship from China for Tk208 crore, Banglar Samriddhi joined the fleet of the shipping corporation in 2018.
Currently, the corporation has eight ships in its fleet, including the one abandoned.
The two other ships had earlier been added to the fleet. The government had previously abandoned 36 ships due to their old age.
According to the financial report for fiscal 2020-21, around 78% of the shipping corporation's revenue came from the six ships, which were the latest addition to the fleet. The remaining 21.54% came from the lighterage segment.
In fiscal 2020-21, the BSC earned Tk243.08 crore from ship operation and other sources and the net profit stood at Tk72 crore.
In the first half of the current financial year, its profit has jumped by 400% to Tk126 crore, the highest in its history.
Hikes in shipping fares internationally on a large scale helped it to make a higher revenue, and profit over the same period of the previous fiscal.
Corporation's statement after the attack
The Bangladesh Shipping Corporation has clarified its position after questions were raised that it was wrong to send the ship to Ukraine amid a war.
According to its statement published in the media, the ship was being chartered under an agreement with the Charter Delta Corporation of Denmark under an agreement (charter party) executed in compliance with international shipping laws and regulations.
Loaded with cargo, the ship left Mumbai port on 26 January and again set off for Ukraine on 21 February after unloading the freight at a Turkish port.
On 22 February, the ship arrived at the outer anchorage of the Ukrainian port and the next day, 21 ships were taken to the inner anchorage in the form of a convoy by the port pilot.
The ship was scheduled to sail for the Italian port of Ravenna carrying ceramic clay from Ukraine. However, when Russia attacked Ukraine on 24 February, the shipping corporation immediately cancelled the loading and instructed the master to leave the port.
But the ship got stuck in the port of Alvia for not being provided with pilots by the port authorities, closure of port operations and laying explosive mines in the port channel.
The main control room (Navigation Bridge) of the ship was totally destroyed by the missile and the main power supply system also got damaged.
The statement, signed by Shipping Corporation Deputy General Manager (Administration) Tarek-ul-Islam, said Ukraine was not excluded from the trading area during the charter process.
On 15 February, the London Joint War Committee declared the Black Sea as a war-prone area with effect from 23 February. But before the war zone was declared, the ship had already entered the port.