The influx of Iranian bitumen into Bangladesh through Chattogram port has been going on unabated, flouting the ban imposed by the commerce ministry.
Iran produces bitumen but can’t legally export the item due to international sanctions. Some companies in China and some other countries facilitate the exports of Iranian bitumen. Transfer of bitumen from one ship to another and packaging take place in United Arab Emirates (UAE). When the bitumen is being exported to any country, it carries a tag “Country of origin UAE).
The roads and highways have to bear the brunt of the use of substandard bitumen imported from Iran, labelled as the product from the UAE.
An investigation reveals that the Iranian bitumen is brought to Chattogram port by Iranian flag carrier ships. The authorities concerned are worried about the entry of Iranian bitumen, defying the commerce ministry’s order.
Economists and experts opined that the import of Iranian product by Iranian ship may put Bangladesh under international pressure. The country’s economy may face a detrimental effect of such illegal imports from Iran, which is under international economic sanctions.
Sources said some bitumen-laden ships have anchored in Chattogram port recently. A few of the ships have already been unloaded. On June 17, a ship of importing agency ‘Jahangir and Others’ reached the port. On June 14, another ship loaded with Iranian bitumen for National Development Engineering Ltd also anchored. It has been learnt that both the ships were from Iran.
Iranian flag carrier ship “NEGAR” carried the bitumen for National Development Engineering Ltd.
The ship registered in Iran bears IMO number 9165839. The 23-year old ship has the capacity of carrying 23,000 tonnes of goods. A tracking service shows that the ship left Chattogram port on June 19 and is now heading towards a Malaysian port.
Jahangir and Brothers has shown an invoice value of $832,301 against the import. The official exporter of the bitumen is Raj Specialist Chemicals Pvt Ltd. Chowdhury Syndicate of Chattogram acted the agent. Rosner Holding Co Ltd exported bitumen from another ship. The invoice value of the bitumen has been shown as $417,855. The bitumen carried by both the ships is of 60-70 grades.
Raj Specialist Chemicals Pvt Ltd is an Indian company with head office in Chennai. It procures bitumen from Iran and supplies it to the importers. It is also involved in the re-export of bitumen from the UAE.
Rosner Holding Co Ltd, a Hong Kong-based company, has offices in Shanghai of China, Netherlands and Ethiopia. It has no office in UAE. In utter peculiarity, the bitumen of National Development Engineering shows Rosner Holding as the exporter.
Bangladesh consulate in UAE confirmed that UAE does not produce bitumen. Basically, the country refines bitumen collected from neighbouring countries. Refilling stations are also located in Abu Dhabi, Hamriya, Fujairah and Ajman.
Various companies of China, India and other countries have established depots near UAE port. Iranian bitumen is stored in the depots and later sent to various destinations with the tag “country of origin UAE.”
Talking to the journalists, the Sales manager of Global Infinity General Trading, a UAE-based bitumen exporter, said UAE does not have any bitumen manufacturing company. In fact, they procure bitumen from Iran and change the label as a product of the UAE.
Iranian sources claimed that the country produces and exports bitumen.
A sales officer of Isfahan Bitumen Production Company of Iran admitted that they export their product to Bangladesh and other countries via UAE regularly. Following international sanction, Iranian bitumen companies have to rely on any UAE-based firms for exports.
The exporters of UAE are trading Iranian bitumen as a product of their own country through forgery.
The influx of Iranian bitumen cannot be stopped due to the influence of a syndicate in Bangladesh.
It has been learnt that the import of substandard bitumen continues despite restrictions imposed by the government. The importers manage to release the goods without quality testing. Accordingly, PHP Group and Elias and Brothers have released 11,000 tonnes of Iranian bitumen from the port recently.
Joint Commissioner of Chattogram Tofayel Ahmed said “Imported bitumen is being tested after government order. We will not compromise with the quality.”
About the recent release of Iranian bitumen, he denied making any comment.
“The commerce ministry officials are the right persons to comment on this issue. We permit the release of imported goods only after the quality assessment is done. I cannot say anything more,” he said.