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A Bangladeshi container feeder service will make its debut voyage from Chittagong port on 22 June, connecting to Singapore and Port Klang, opening another avenue for shippers to feeder cargo to mainline vessels.
The Bangladesh Express Service operates with two 1,500 teu vessels and will depart Chittagong every Monday.
In the absence of a deepsea port, ferrying goods to and from Bangladesh is dependent on low-draught feeder vessels. Currently, some 84 container vessels from 22 foreign carriers move cargo for the $90bn export-import trade to and from Colombo, Singapore and Port Klang.
HR Lines’ new feeder service, operated by HR Lines, will be the only flag-carrier container feeder service owned by a local private sector conglomerate, using sister ships Sarera and Sahare, which used to operate Pacific International Lines’ Singapore-Chittagong services.
In Chittagong, the last locally owned feeder service, operated by HRC Shipping, stopped sailing in 2010, leaving the business to foreign companies.
The Sahare has been acquired from PIL, which over the past couple of months has been forced to sell owned-vessels, return chartered ships and seek the help of the Singapore government to repair its battered balance sheet. It is now registered in Bangladesh, and all vessels markings as well as classification and call signs have all been changed accordingly.
The vessels will enjoy priority berthing at Chittagong and are entitled to carry up to 50% export-import cargo under the Bangladesh Flag Vessel (Protection) Act, 2019.
HR Lines director Hamdan Hossain Chowdhury told The Loadstar that as Bangladeshi-flagged vessels, the priority berthing meant no berthing delays and reliable mother vessel connections in Singapore and Port Klang.
“Hence schedule integrity makes this service a premium one,” he added.
Fellow director Raimah Chowdhury said that, as a flag-carrier employing Bangladeshi crew, the company would help save the country millions of dollars in foreign exchange.
She said: “We are expecting healthy loadings on all our voyages, south and northbound. Our ambition is to grow our fleet and network in the near future.”
Shippers have welcomed the new feeder service as its priority berthing will help them get containers delivered much earlier, while other vessels face congestion in Chittagong port.
Sahed Hossain, an apparel exporter, said: “That’s good news for us. The fixed day service will ensure timely reaching of our cargo to catch the mother vessel.”
As Bangladesh’s premier gateway, Chittagong, handled 3.08m teu last year.