Thursday, June 17, 2021
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Indian Coastal Trade

India will have regular shipping services with Bangladesh via Chittagaong and Haldia. After the liberation of Bangladesh, our M.V. Vishwa Tilak was probably the first ship that loaded jute from Bangladesh ports of Chittagong and Chalna. Sailing to Chalna along beautiful Sunderbans was a sight to cherish. Actually, there used to be more ships at Chalna than at Chittagong, anchored in the river.

We used to go ashore ( it used to be muddy shore called Shantinagar with only the thatched roofs but beautiful and welcoming people selling coconut, pineapples etc; where you could sit and chit-chat with the local girls. We used to go ashore by “sampans”, the current in the river used to be very strong and unless you are very agile and alert, you could go overboard while negotiating the gangway.

After some years we used to go to Chittagong from Calcutta on Raj Line Ship M.V. Saleema. This was a ship with two hatches, a midship accommodation and aft accommodation for engineers and crew. The crew had Raj Line CDC mostly hailing from Andamans and accompanied by the owner Mr CM Jadwet.

The steward used to bring our tea balancing two cups in the plates over the plank on aft hatch, but not a single drop of tea spills out. Those days Bangladeshis were simple but now they have become very selfish and plenty of fraudulent cargo claims are being raised by them. Even thefts have increased drastically. Indian coastal security will have to remain vigilant because Bangladeshis may indulge in dubious trade rather than genuine transportation of goods and may use this channel for increased illegal immigration and other harmful practices such as bringing in counterfeit currency.

Coastal Shipping is operated profitably in dedicated low key manner. The government has reduced the prices of fuel which will provide big relief for consumers. We need to remain vigilant about Maldivians as it’s an Islamic country. Mariners from here arrive in Mumbai pleading that they hail from poor country and seek to obtain Indian COC claiming leniency. Later, they join reputed foreign companies and offer good competition to Indian officers. Their government has not awarded the contract for constructing airport to an Indian company. The government needs to probe about the agents employing Maldivians in Mumbai and keep a strict vigil on them for security reasons.

Yangon in Myanmar is a better and cheaper place with magnificent “ pagodas”, if you don’t mind uncharted waters and port people coming with jerry cans asking for diesel, as you approach the berth. We bought our provisions from a lady stopping briefly on our way out. This is unthinkable at other places. Let’s hope a profitable trade is established between Myanmar and East Indian ports in the future. We used to bring pulses from Yangon to Mumbai Indira docks and logs to Kandla. Local agents are the major decision makers here and possess vast powers concerning the cargo and ship’s operation in port. The beautiful and hard working girls here apply “ chandan” paste on their foreheads and faces. “Mere piya gaye Rangoon kiya hai wahan se telephoon, tumhari yaad satati hai…”.

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