The identity of the dead body recovered last Friday (14 October) from an empty container transported to Malaysia's Penang from Chattogram is yet to be confirmed, officials of the Chattogram Port Authority and the operator of the container-carrying ship, Sinokor Merchant Marine, have said.
The mystery of the dead body can be unlocked after the deceased nationality is identified, they added.
Incidents of finding dead bodies or alive human beings in empty containers shipped from Chattogram occurred at least four times over the past 10 years. But, the Chattogram Port Authority has not taken any visible measures to prevent such incidents.
With the carelessness of the authorities coming to notice, port users expressed their concern about the overall security system of the Chattogram Port. They also urged container depot owners, shipping agents and berth operators to strengthen their surveillance.
"Such incidents are very sensitive for us. Instead of blame-game, we now need strong collaboration among all the authorities and should develop a system for preventing those in future," Khairul Alam Sujan, vice-president of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarders Association, told the Business Standard.
He also suggested increasing security at the places where such incidents can occur.
What authorities say
The empty container carrying the body to Penang was taken from Sitakundu's BM depot – a subsidiary of Smart Group.
When contacted, Smart Group Executive Director Captain Moinul Ahsan told the Business Standard that the container was opened and checked while taking it out of the depot. "Some photos were also taken and sent to the concerned."
The container-carrying ship – Swasdee Atlantic vessel – is operated by Sinokor Merchant Marine. Globe Link Associates is its local agent in Bangladesh.
Globe Links Associates Managing Director Moinul Haque Chowdhury told TBS, "We have learned that the Malaysian police are currently investigating the matter. A post-mortem was conducted after the body was recovered."
"The police told our principal that they are maintaining confidentiality on the matter. When the investigation is over, they will contact their Bangladesh counterpart if necessary."
He further added that they wrote a letter to the Chattogram Port Authority on 18 October on the incident.
When contacted, Chattogram Port Secretary Omar Faruk told The Business Standard that the Penang Port authorities are yet to inform them of anything officially.
"We will investigate the matter when we receive a formal letter. If the identity of the deceased is known, it can be confirmed from where the body is kept in the container."
The secretary, however, said there is no room to question the security of the Chattogram Port by linking this incident.
Previous such incidents
One day in the middle of 2011, two men – named Deen Islam and Al-Amin – entered an empty container kept at Chattogram Port for sleeping after taking marijuana, officials familiar with the matters told The Business Standard.
The container was taken to a Singapore port in the next five days and kept in the yard for another five days. When the container was opened, the port workers found Deen Islam dead and Al-Amin survivor.
In another incident in 2016, Indian police rescued a man alive from an empty container, shipped from Chattogram, at Visakhapatnam Port in India. Called Mohammad Rohan Hossain, he was about 30 years old.
In the next year, Chattogram Port staffers recovered a young man – named Babul Tripur – from a vacant container while loading a Singapore-bound ship. He was a depot worker.
Empty containers remain unprotected
The vacant container which carried the body to Penang started its journey from Sitakundu's BM Depot and entered the Chattogram Port on 4 October. Two days later, it boarded the ship and reached Penang on 9 October. Malaysian Police recovered the body on 14 October.
"The container was in the Penang Port for five days. As it was not protected with a seal, the body could come into the container in many ways," said Ruhul Amin Shikder, secretary general of the Bangladesh Inland Container Depots Association.
The mystery will be unlocked once the identity of the rescued is confirmed, he told The Business Standard.
According to the association, the doors of containers carrying export-import goods are kept locked with seals, but those of empty containers are not.
The vacant container doors are shut but not locked in any port across the globe, it said, adding that depot authorities themselves inspect the empty containers when they leave the depots.
In the case of Chattogram Port, containers from different depots come to the port gate, where they are checked again, and go to the ships. However, the containers are not kept in the port yard.