The state-run Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) has entered into a contract with a private company to transport fuel oil at the cost of 1 taka per tonne.
Concerns have been raised regarding how the oil will be transported at such a low cost. It is suspected that siphoning off the fuel may be the reason for the low-cost contract for fuel transportation. The company responsible for the shipping of fuel oil allegedly sells a portion of the oil en route, using this as a source of profit.
The private company that BIWTC has engaged for this contract is Bismillah Oil Suppliers.
The owner of Bismillah Oil Suppliers, Zafar Ullah, told Prothom Alo, "We have been transporting oil for several years. This time also we secured the contact as the lowest bidder."
When asked how it is possible to ship one tonne of fuel oil for just 1 taka, Zafar Ullah said, "You should discuss the matter with my son. He can explain it better."
Zafar Ullah's son, Abdullah Al Mamun, informed Prothom Alo, "We transport oil for many other clients simultaneously. Securing a government contract is good for our reputation." He denied allegations of selling any of the oil, however.
Four companies in the tender
BIWTC is the government's shipping agency. Seven vessels operate from Chattogram, carrying passengers and cargo. They purchase diesel from Padma Oil Company and Meghna Oil Company to fuel these boats.
Padma Oil and Meghna Oil typically supply oil to Chattogram from depots in Patenga. Tenders were issued on 30 May to select a shipping company for transporting oil from this depot to BIWTC ships. A day later, on 1 June, a lesser-known English daily published an advertisement for tenders for fuel oil transportation for a two-year period.
Four companies participated in the tender: Bismillah Oil Suppliers, Eastern Bunker Service, Polycorn International, and MAS Trading International.
Bismillah Oil Suppliers submitted a tender of Tk 1,680 for fuel oil transportation for BIWTC ships in Chittagong over a two-year period. With this amount, they will transport 1,680 tons of fuel oil, equating to only Tk 1 being spent per tonne.
Eastern Bunker Services also placed a similar bid to Bismillah Oil Suppliers. Sources suggest that they are, in fact, a sister company of Bismillah Oil Suppliers.
Polycorn International bid Tk 169,680, and MAS Trading International bid Tk 1.5 million (Tk 1,513,680). However, Bismillah Oil Suppliers secured the job as the lowest bidder.
BIWTC Additional Chief Engineer Shamsuddin Ahmed was the head of the tender committee. He told Prothom Alo over the phone that Bismillah Oil Suppliers, as the lowest bidder, got the work order for two years. They have transported oil before .
Talking to the private companies associated with fuel and oil transportation, it is known that it will cost at least Tk 20,000 to send an oil tanker from Patenga to Chittagong BIWTC ships. Along with this, if you arrive at the depot, you will have to pay the berthing fee of Tk 1,558. In total, transportation of 1,680 tons of fuel oil will cost at least Tk 2.1 million in two years. But the cost of BIWTC will be only Tk 1 per tonne.
Indeed, BIWTC seems to have secured the opportunity for inexpensive oil transportation. However, objections have been raised regarding the quantity of oil being transported from the depot to the ship, indicating discrepancies.
BIWTC is set to transport 1,680 tonnes of oil which is worth Tk 180 million. Individuals involved in the fuel oil transportation have expressed concerns that even a 5 per cent illegal sale of the oil would yield a market value exceeding Tk 9 million. This illicitly gained money is allegedly divided among various parties.
When questioned about how it's possible to transport 1,680 tonnes of oil over two years for only Tk 1,680, BIWTC's Additional Chief Engineer, Shamsuddin Ahmed, remained silent. When asked again if there was a mistake in the tender amount, he responded, “No, there was no mistake.”