FATHER OF MARITIME BANGLADESH!
Maritime Scenario after Liberation
After liberation in 1971, the shipping sector’s scenario was miserable. The occupation Pakistani Army took away all the merchant ships and left Chittagong Port with hidden mines all around under the water. Destroyed naval/merchant ships were submerged in the Karnaphuly channel; as a result, the foreign ships were not willing to call here and insurance companies imposed increased premium on ships calling Chittagong Port. Upon return to new country Bangladesh on 10th January 1972 (from the imprisonment in Pakistan), the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took all possible efforts to build and organise the country in all sectors including shipping; despite all out national & international resistances against the war-bashed just-born Bangladesh, successes were tremendous during his very short period of 1972-75 (before been assassinated in 1975).
March of Maritime Bangladesh
Bangabandhu managed to resume functioning of Marine Academy and Seamen’s Training Centre immediately. He established the ‘Bangladesh shipping Corporation’ on 5th February 1972. He also managed to procure 19 ocean-going ships at almost free of cost from various friendly countries by 1975; later, by 1983, more 13 ships including 4 brand new ships from Japan (ref: his renowned Japan trip in 1974) were added to the BSC fleet out of his initiatives. Despite hard competition in the then shipping world, the new-born BSC made distinct profit throughout 70’s. Upon his request, a group of Russian maritime experts came to Bangladesh and cleared off the hidden/floating mines and submerged hazards from the Karnaphuly channel in 1972. Before return, at Bangabandhu’s initiative and request, they established Marine Fisheries Academy in 1973 in Chittagong. Bangabandhu commenced the long pending work of the construction of the Chittagong Dry Dock & Heavy Industries (commissioned in 1983). Smaller ship-construction (upto 1,000 DWT) commenced in Khulna Shipyard in 1972. Oil and gas exploration in the Bay of Bengal was commenced in 1973. Informatively, besides being the Prime Minister, additionally he was also the Shipping Minister for a period of 8 July 1974 – 26 Jan 1975.
Back the Sailors, Build the Nation!
However due to obvious shortage of seafaring personnel, all the BSC ships used to be mainly manned by foreigners. Shortage of shore-experts in maritime administration, shipping companies, ports and in training centres was more than that at sea. Right after liberation, different foreign countries specially UK (British Technical Aid) and UNDP Funding came forward to train our seafarers. At this stage the newly formed ‘Bangladesh Merchant Marine Officers’ Association’ raised a slogan – Back the Sailors, Build the Nation!
Development of Marine Academy
Bangabandhu took a project titled ‘Development of Marine Academy’ in 1973; the various newer infrastructure we see today are the direct output of that visionary initiative. Such development raised the Academy for being selected as one of the 14 branches of the IMO’s World Maritime University (Sweden) in 1990 and Bangladesh could earn the coveted position in the IMO White List in 2000. Thus Bangladesh has become blessed with a number of seafarers and maritime experts.
Therefore, the Father of the Nation was Father of Maritime Bangladesh indeed!