CHATTOGRAM: The fire, which tore through BM Container Depot in Chattogram on an unprecedented scale claiming the lives of at least 41 people and injuring 300 others, is a wake-up call to the authorities concerned to keep the country’s export and import business smooth in future.
The fatal accident is likely to leave an impact on the export-import trade due to the destruction of huge products meant for delivery, fear insiders.
The people concerned laid emphasis on strict monitoring of safety measures at the depots handling hazardous goods like chemical to prevent the recurrence of such accident in future.
Negligence on the part of the authorities of BM Container Depot has largely been blamed for the devastation of the fire.
According to the Chattogram Port Authority (CPA), there were 26 containers carrying hydrogen peroxide at the depot during the accident. The chemical was also kept in plastic jars at a tin-roofed shed of the depot.
BICDA informed that there were 4,300 Twenty-Equivalent Unit (TEUs) of containers in the depot at the time of the fire incident.
Of them, 800 were full of export goods while 500 loaded with imported items. The rest 3,000 containers were empty.
He said losses caused by the fire might be Tk 1,300-1,400 crore. Of the amount, Tk 800 crore is for damaged export goods, Tk 400 crore for damaged imported goods and the rest Tk 200 crore for the damaged empty containers and establishments of the depot, said Ruhul.
Asked about the safety measures for handling the chemical goods at the depot, he said there are no separate rules and regulations for the dangerous goods like chemical and some other depots in Chattogram are also handling the item.
Buyers and local monitoring bodies always monitor the compliance issues at our depots regularly,” the BICDA secretary general said.
“However, we can’t understand the reason behind the massive devastation in the fire. Investigation committees formed in this connection will surely unearth the actual facts,” he said.
According to Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), the apex body of garment exporters, there were export goods of 13 industrial groups, including Ha-Meem, Pran Group, Ananta Group, Pacific Jeans Group, Four H Group and Asian Group, at the depot.
Its Vice-President Rakibul Alam Chowdhury said as per the information they could gather until Monday afternoon, there were goods worth $30 million of at least 13 readymade garment (RMG) producers of the country. “We’ll be able to finalise the figure after getting all information,” he said.
Mentioning that there might be problems for destruction of the would-be-export goods, mainly RMG ones, he underscored the need for taking proper measures so that no such incident takes place in future.
Rakibul, however, suggested keeping containers carrying hazardous items like chemical at a safe distance from ports and depots.
Contacted, CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Shahjahan told the Daily Sun that investigation committees have been formed and they will find out the alleged negligence and compliance issues at the depot.
“Our port is ISPS-compliant one. Besides, a Dutch company owns 49 percent share of BM Container Deport. The foreign companies are very cautious about the compliance issues,” said the CPA chairman.
“At this moment, it can’t be said whether there were any lapses in compliance issues at the depot,” he said.
“The authorities will have to be bold and take quick step to fight this sort of fire. Any delay may cause such explosions,” Shahjahan noted.
He said he has already held talks with the BICDA. “I asked them to store the containers meant for BM Container Depot inside the port to tackle the situation.”
The authorities of all the depots will have to maintain proper safety measures to avert such accidents, he added.
Mentionable, the activities of Inland Container Depot (ICD), commonly known as off-dock, started around 24 years ago under Chattogram Port.
Depots are mainly used for storing containers -- before exporting goods and after their arrival from abroad. CPA oversees the operation at these depots.
BM Container Depot was launched in 2011 as a joint venture company of Bangladesh and the Netherlands with an investment of Tk 150 crore.
Bangladesh’s Smart Group has partnership in this depot. The hydrogen peroxide that allegedly caused the explosion at the depot was also produced at ‘Al Razi Chemical Complex,’ another subsidiary of Smart Group.