Traders have expressed safety concerns over the establishment of a passenger jetty and construction of a road between two Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) plants at Mongla Port, a key economic hub of the country's southern region.
LPG Operators Association of Bangladesh (Loab) has written to several government agencies, including the shipping ministry, saying the construction of the passenger jetty may threaten the safety of sensitive installations such as gas plants and foreign ships transporting LPG may also raise objections.
After the LPG plant owners raised the issue with the shipping minister at the beginning of last month, the work for setting up the wharf was halted for some time.
However, the construction work of the dock, being implemented by the Roads and Highways Department between LPG plants Omera Petroleum Limited and Jamuna Spacetech Joint Venture Limited, resumed on 16 October causing concerns among the traders.
On 18 October, Loab President Azam J Chowdhury sent a letter to the shipping ministry requesting to stop the construction of the passenger jetty and relocate it.
He also pointed out in his letter that the construction of the jetty in close proximity to jetties of the two LPG factories, may reduce the navigability of the Pasur river.
Besides, the construction of the road between the two plants may undermine navigation in the Pasur channel and may also increase the chances of naval accidents, he added.
Insiders say member organisations of the Loab with the support of the Ministry of Shipping and Mongla Port Authority, have made massive investments in setting up plants in the area adjacent to the port. The area has been established as the largest LPG hub of the country and these plants and installations are very sensitive.
Md Shaheenur Alam, director of the Mongla Port Authority told The Business Standard, "If there is a wharf or other structure in this area, naturally there may be risks as this is an international port. We have not given written permission to build any kind of jetty or road here."
He added that higher authorities are handling the matter and they have not received any instruction yet.
Syed Aslam Ali, chief engineer of Roads and Highway Department Khulna zone, told The Business Standard, "There is a request from a lawmaker and directive from the shipping minister for the ferry operation. It is not important for us whether the port (authority) gives permission. Besides, the existing road is being widened to facilitate ferry passenger transport, not constructing a new road."
He said, "Some risks are being talked about, but the channel is wide. The ferries will run a maximum 12 times throughout the day. So there will be no difficulty if you proceed with caution."
The chief engineer said he does not think it will be any risk for the LPG plants.