Irresponsible statements by responsible officials
It seems the officials making such irresponsible statements do not have sufficient knowledge of international conventions and protocols. The Department of Shipping is national maritime administration and requires a dynamic leader as its director general. I have nothing against the navy but we must understand that every admiral or commodore does not make a successful director general, writes FR Chowdhury
THE Maritime Labour Convention 2006 finally entered into force on August 20. Despite so much writing in various papers and journals emphasising the importance of becoming a party to the convention, the Awami League-led government decided otherwise. Meantime, the director general of the Department of Shipping held a press conference in Chittagong where he assured the Bangladesh ship-owners that the government would soon become a party to the instrument and that the International Maritime Organisation and the International Labour Organisation had been informed accordingly. He also said there was nothing to worry about as it would not affect the operation of Bangladesh-registered ships. I wonder if all the party states have listened to his statement and acted accordingly.
I took a copy of the convention and read it again very carefully. I did not come across any provision for a state to notify the ILO that it would soon become a party and its ships should be allowed to operate freely without any hindrance. I do not know where our learned director general found this provision. There is provision for acceptance and accession. Now that the convention is already in force, Bangladesh may merely accede to it. In the meantime, it would mean a huge loss if a Bangladesh registered ship is detained in a foreign port for not having MLC certificates.
The big question is why Bangladesh did not sign this instrument on time and ensure labour standards on Bangladesh ships? Has it benefited Bangladesh in any way? The director general never focused on that matter. Instead to divert attention from the subject he stated many irrelevant things. He said Bangladesh would soon earn through the seafarers far more than what it earns through the garment sector. He also said he approved operation of 15 more private marine academies. They are all good news indeed. We hope those academies will maintain standard and produce good officers who can understand the significance of compliance of international standards.
There was another press conference where the managing director of the state-owned Bangladesh Shipping Corporation said the BSC fleet would soon be replaced and modernised. We can understand the urgency. Any procurement before the change of government will be beneficial to all concerned. Definitely it is more important than becoming a party to the MLC 2006. But it is another statement by the BSC top official which is a matter of concern. He said new IMO rules and regulations are making it difficult for the corporation to operate ships to Europe and other places. The question is whether those rules relate to Bangladesh alone. No, he is talking about international treaties and protocols that apply to all ships under all flags. Why can BSC ships not comply with those requirements when others can? This is nothing other than management failure.
The International Maritime Organisation is the specialised agency of the United Nations that looks after maritime safety, security and environmental protection. The employees of the IMO including the secretary general cannot enforce any new requirement. It is the member states who adopt various conventions on the floor of the IMO and then states are at liberty to accept or not. It is certainly difficult for a state to operate globally without complying with provisions of conventions that are in force. Bangladesh is a party to adoption of those instruments we are talking about. It is difficult to understand why Bangladesh does not implement and comply with the standards which it developed with others.
It seems the officials making such irresponsible statements do not have sufficient knowledge of international conventions and protocols. The Department of Shipping is national maritime administration and requires a dynamic leader as its director general. I have nothing against the navy but we must understand that every admiral or commodore does not make a successful director general. It could be a career civil servant or even a professional mariner, but has got to be a person with knowledge, skill and proficiency. It is time to think afresh.
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