Bangladesh to set up trauma centres in all ports, marine academies

Container handling at Chittagong port, Bangladesh. Credit: Amirul Karim Dilon of Chittagong Port Authority

The Bangladesh government has moved to set up health facilities in all seaports and state-owned marine academies for emergency treatment of seafarers and port employees. On 21 September, the parliamentary committee on Ministry of Shipping recommended the establishment of health services for all crew and students of marine academies. The move was introduced due to the increased cases of accidents in ports and at sea.

Shipping secretary Mohammed Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury told SAS crew and port workers frequently injure themselves at Bangladesh ports when handling heavy equipment.

“After an incident, taking them [crew or worker] to trauma centres outside the port area takes huge [amounts of] time, thus many may face permanent disabilities,” he said. “If we can give them emergency treatment in port’s own trauma centres just after the incidents, major losses can be avoided,” Chowdhury added.

Currently, the Chittagong and Mongla seaports have their own hospitals, while the Payra seaport and Matarbari deepsea port (currently under construction) have no such facilities.

The government has plans to build two more seaports – one in Bangladesh’s southeastern Noakhali district and another in north of Chittagong near Mirsarai Economic Zone.

Bangladesh has one state-run maritime university and four marine academies that produce hundreds of seafarers every year. Additionally, a number of maritime institutes are currently being set up. There are also a dozen private sector maritime and fisheries institutes in the country.

On 7 September, a Filipino crew member, Joel D Baranda, died at Chittagong port after falling from a vessel while he was closing the hatch cover of the ship. Over the last few months, dozens of crew have gone missing and were rescued later in critical condition as their small and medium-sized vessels, which unload bulk cargoes from mother vessels in the deep sea, sank in rough weather.

Parliamentary committee chairman Major Rafiqul Islam (retd) said the state-run marine academies are usually situated in the riverbanks, opposite of the city areas where there are hardly any hospitals.

If an incident occurs, going to hospitals by crossing rivers becomes very difficult, especially when signals are hoisted in bad weather. Sometimes, vessels are stuck in the rivers for two to three days because of rough waters, being situated close to the Bay of Bengal, he said.

“So we’ve recommended for setting up trauma centres and 5–10 bed hospitals to provide emergency treatment,” said Islam.

The shipping secretary said his office will now ask all the heads of the ports and marine academies to set up the trauma centres and hospitals in line with the recommendation of the parliamentary committee.

“It’s for the well-being of crew and port officials,” concluded Islam.