Early History of Shipping in Bangladesh


The Department of Shipping

Before the independence of Bangladesh, an organization called “Controller of Shipping” was looking after the international shipping activities. On the other hand, the “Navigation Directorate” was responsible for the affairs of inland shipping. Besides these, there were “Seaman Training Center” to produce seafarers, “Government Shipping Office” for arranging jobs for seafarers, “Directorate of Seamen Welfare and Immigration” for ensuring welfare activities of seafarers and “Mercantile Marine Department” to perform the duty of statutory requirement of the merchant shipping.

After the independence of Bangladesh, considering the importance of shipping, to further streamline the sector to meet global standards and to achieve safe and secure shipping, the “Directorate of Shipping” under Ports, Shipping and IWT Division of the Communication Ministry was formed. In 1976, the “Department of Shipping (DoS)” came into existence by merging the “Directorate of Shipping” and the “Controller of Shipping”. Since then, the Department of Shipping is functioning as the maritime safety administration of Bangladesh and the international focal point of maritime affairs. Merchant Shipping Ordinance (MSO) having ordinance NO. XXVI of 30 June 1983 is the present guiding document for all shipping and seafarers' activities.


Shipping in Public Sector of Bangladesh

The Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC), is the major shipowner in public sector of Bangladesh, which was established on 5th February 1972 under President’s Order No. 10 of 1972 with the objectives of providing efficient, safe, reliable and economical shipping services to the local exporters, importers and business houses, to develop sustainable shipping and ancillary infrastructures in a sovereign nation which just became independent on 16th December 1971 after a nine-month-long liberation war and thereby reducing dependence on foreign flag vessels to stop drainage of hard-earned foreign exchange from the national exchequer.

During the liberation war in 1971, all vessels of Pakistan`s National Shipping Corporation (NSC) were withdrawn to Pakistan. The newborn nation thus found itself without a maritime fleet of its own. Having been inspired by the supreme sacrifice made by the freedom fighters and martyrs for liberating the beloved motherland, our people started their journey in 1972 without a ship merely capitalizing on their firm determination to do something for the newborn nation by dint of their sincere devotion and earnest efforts under the dynamic, able leadership of the then management. In the early days, BSC’s activities were confined to only in providing agency services to the foreign principals. However, endeavors for acquiring ships were on concurrently. BSC was able to acquire two ocean-going ships namely, “M.V. Banglar Doot” and “M.V. Banglar Sampad” in a very short period after the establishment of the Corporation on 5th February 1972. Of them, BSC acquired “M.V. Banglar Doot” of 12812 DWT on 10th June 1972 as it`s the first ship. Due to relentless efforts for procuring vessels to build up a balanced fleet, it was reached up to a peak of 27 vessels in 1982. BSC was able to acquire a total number of 38 ships till now. But upon expiry of commercial and economic life so far, 25 vessels have been disposed of in different phases. At present, BSC has a mixed fleet of 13 ocean-going ships, including two tankers engaged in carrying seaborne cargoes in different international sea routes. The average age of the ships in the fleet is 20 years and the total capacity of all these ships is 1.96 Lac MT.


Shipping in the Private Sector of Bangladesh

In erstwhile East Pakistan, there was only one ship-owning company with its operational headquarters in Chattogram. That was the Pakistan Steam Navigation Company owned by late A K Khan.  The company had two ocean-going ships (perhaps named "Fatehabad" and "Jahangirabad").  The ships operated until about 1969. Thereafter, there was no ocean-going merchant ship owned privately by any East Pakistani company.

After the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, Bangladesh had no ocean-going merchant ships. Even the ships owned and operated by Pakistan National Shipping Corporation were tactfully taken out of Bangladesh except for two smaller ships which eventually became the only asset of the newly-formed Bangladesh Shipping Corporation. In the initial few years, our economy was strictly centralized and state-owned. We were probably more socialist than Russia and China. Almost everything was nationalized. Most of those state-owned enterprises were running in loss. The only state-owned corporation that made a profit was the newly-formed Bangladesh Shipping Corporation.

Things changed after 1975 with the change in government. Private sector investments started pouring in. New banks and insurance companies were launched. Mr. Nurul Qader Khan of Desh Garments was the pioneer and the ready-made garment industry developed very fast. Ananda Shipyard and Western Marine showed how to develop ship-building. Bangladesh's economy started getting diversified and gain momentum. Lately, the government also allowed the telecommunications service in the private sector. The fast-developing IT sector got linked up with other arms to boost the economy.

Shipping and aviation were also opened up for private sectors. It took time for private investment to come for international shipping and aviation. The man who made the first private sector shipping in Bangladesh was Mr. Sanaullah Chowdhury. Immediately after the liberation of Bangladesh, he obtained an agency for Scindia Steam Navigation of India and that of India Steamship Co. of Calcutta. He then obtained a cargo booking agency for SCI. He eventually obtained an agency for the Shipping Corporation of India. He diversified into the agency, chartering, brokerage, and all other services. His business flourished.

It was in 1978 that he (Atlas Shipping) purchased a second-hand cargo ship of about 10,000 GRT and got it registered at the port of Chattogram and named the vessel Al-Salma. That was the first Bangladeshi ocean-going merchant ship under private ownership. He kept on buying second-hand ships one after another, though some of the older ones were sold off as scraps. He purchased Al-Sharmeen in 1980, Al-Sayestha in 1981, Al-Sana in 1985, Al-Salma-2 in 1985, Al-Swamruz in 1986, Safar in 1989 and Al-Salmas in 1997. At one time, Atlas Shipping had as many as four ocean-going ships. Safar was the last ship sold off in 1999 as scrap, which brought an end to their ship-owning business. His ships operated from Japan and South Korea to the East and Pakistan and the Persian Gulf in the West. Atlas Shipping employed Bangladeshis both on ships and ashore. A good number of Bangladeshi mariners around the world got built their careers at Atlas Shipping.


Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners Association

In order to look into the interests of private ocean going ship owners in Bangladesh, Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners Association (BOGSOA) was established in 1989 with its head office in Dhaka.  BOGSOA was formed under Company’s Act   1913 ( Section-VII) and that the Company is Limited and registered with Registrar Joint Stock Company on the 13th day of April 1989.    The Company affiliates private shipping companies of Bangladesh, which are registered at the office of the Principal Officer, Mercantile   Marine Department under the ministry of shipping, Bangladesh. The Association is currently headed by Mr. Azam J Chowdhury as its Chairman since 2012. The Chairman is assisted by two Vice-Chairman and a secretary-general to run the administration of the BOGSOA office.


Some Major Events in Shipping History of the World

1492 – Christopher Columbus sails from Spain and discovers the new world. (The continents of North

and South America are commonly known as the new world).

1498 – Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama reached India.

1783 – Steam power was used for the first time to propel a boat.

1788 – The first paddle steamer was made. Steam power was used to rotate two large wheel-like

paddles on either side of the steamer.

1805 – Battle of Trafalgar. The famous battle in which British Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon’s Naval fleet (combined French and Spanish) near Trafalgar in Spain. Nelson lost an arm. Injured Nelson was landed in Gibraltar.

1819 – s.s.”Savanah” was the first steamship to cross Atlantic. She also had sails and used them as required. She crossed Atlantic under power and sail.

1822 – The first iron ship was built in Wolverhampton, UK.

1838 – s.s.”Sirius” was the first ship to cross Atlantic under steam power alone.

1840 – Cunard’s  s.s.“Britannia” introduced the Trans-Atlantic mail service.

1845 – s.s. “Great Britain” was the first steam and screw ship to cross Atlantic.

1869 – Suez Canal was opened, reducing the sailing time between Far-East and Europe.

1878 – The world saw the first tanker where oil was carried in bulk instead of barrels.

1878 – This is the year when a ship took fuel oil bunker to operate by oil instead of coal.

1879 – The world saw the first ship with internal electric lighting.

1897 – 98 – First-time steam was used with turbines to produce direct rotary power to drive a ship. Turbine steam engines could produce huge power. The concept was later used in the development of gas turbines and jet engines.

1898 – In September Marconi tested radio-telegraphy on board “Electra”. In December first wireless telegraphy between South Foreland Lighthouse and the East Goodwin Lightship took place.

1902 – The first submarine was built.

1904 – The first motor ship was built. A diesel engine was used instead of steam. Boilers were not required to produce steam for propulsion. Combustion took place within the cylinders by compressing the air and igniting the same with the injection of diesel spray. Auxiliary boilers were still used for domestic purposes.

1911 – First diesel/ motor ship crossed Atlantic.

1912 – A small bi-plane takes off the deck of HMS ”Africa” on an experimental basis. This concept was later used for building an aircraft carrier. This is also the sad year in which passenger liner “Titanic” hit ice-berg and sank in her maiden voyage. The loss of Titanic gave rise to international awareness for the safety of life at sea.

1914 – 15 – Panama Canal was opened reducing the sailing time between the Atlantic and Pacific. 1919 – First aircraft carrier “Hermes” came into operation.

1920 – All welded steel ship was made. This technology eventually replaced riveted ships. Ship’s hull became smoother, and increased fuel economy was achieved.

1929 – The first ship with turbo-electric propulsion was built.

1952 – ss “United States” made 38 knots (about 43 miles per hour) across Atlantic.

1958 – IMCO later renamed IMO (International Maritime Organization) came into being ten years after the adoption of the UN resolution. It is located in London. The site and building are a gift of the British government.

1959 – First tanker (perhaps named Tokyo-Maru) was built to carry more than 100,000 tonnes of oil at a time. This year (1959) the first nuclear-powered merchant ship “Savannah” also came into operation.

1966 – Britain made the first hovercraft and introduced the same into service.

1969 – the Americans introduced LASH (lighter aboard ship).

1998 – Last manned lighthouse in the UK was turned automatic.


BOGSOA The Bangladesh Ocean Going Ship Owners’ Association (BOGSOA) was incorporated on thirteenth April 1989 as a nonprofit organization. The Certificate of Incorporation number was CTO- 276(23)/89 under the Companies Act (Act- VII) of 1913 and the Company is Limited and registered at the office of the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies, Bangladesh. BOGSOA was formed by the owners of Bangladesh Flag Carriers to deal with their interests and issues affecting the growth and development of Bangladesh. BOGSOA owes its origin to the endeavours of Mr Abdul Awal Mintu, the founder Chairman along with other members. Except for Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, all member companies are privately owned. Over the last three decades, there have been ups and downs in the shipping business in Bangladesh, and the number of active member companies also fluctuated. Mr Azam J Chowdhury, Chairman East Coast Centre is the elected president of the BOGSOA for fourth consecutive terms. He is assisted by two Vice Presidents, namely Mr Mostafa Kamal, Chairman and MD Janata Flour and Dal Ltd and Mr Sk Basir Uddin Managing Director Akij Shipping Co respectively. Total number of active members of the association at present is 11, and the total number of ships with the association is more than 60.

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