Now the discussion of sending pilgrims by ship

Karnaphuli Ship Builders Limited wants to launch ships by sea for Hajj pilgrims of Bangladesh. The company says that it will take 10 days by ship to go from Chittagong Port to Jeddah Port in Saudi Arabia. The total time of a pilgrim including travel and Hajj formalities will be 37 days. If you go by ship, the cost will be one to one and a half lakh taka less than by plane.

The company has applied to the Ministry of Shipping for permission to operate ships by sea. On January 29, an inter-ministerial meeting was held at the Secretariat regarding the proposal.

In the meeting presided over by Shipping Secretary Mustafa Kamal, there were pro-oppositions about Hajj by sea. Some say going for Hajj by ship is positive. Some have also highlighted various challenges. It is not certain whether the Saudi Arabian government will allow the sea route or not.

According to sources in the Ministry of Shipping, it was decided in the meeting that the proposal will be sent to the Prime Minister. If a positive response is received from there, discussions with the Saudi government will begin. If the country agrees then other processes will begin.

Officials of the Shipping Ministry say that in the eighties, pilgrims used to go to Saudi Arabia by ship from Bangladesh. It used to take three months to travel by ship. Eventually it stopped.

Karnaphuli Shipbuilders says it has commissioned the Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Company Limited (IIFC) to carry out a study in this regard. IIFC calls shipping efficient.

Officials of Karnaphuli Shipbuilders say they expect a massive response from the middle class when the ship is launched. If permission is received from the government, they want to start shipping from the next Hajj season.

First they will buy a ship with a capacity of 4,000. It will cost at least 500 crore rupees. Other than Hajj, the ship will be open for tourists. The ship will sail between Asian countries including Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia. They have plans to build bigger ships later if they get the response.

Managing Director (MD) of Karnaphuli Ship Builders Limited MA Rashid told Prothom Alo that the cost of traveling by air for pilgrims is increasing every year. Now, if a pilgrim does it by plane, it will cost more than six and a half lakh rupees. If done by ship, the cost will be less than one to one and a half lakh rupees.

According to information from the Ministry of Shipping, only Sudanese people have been doing Hajj by sea since 2018.

In an inter-ministerial meeting on January 29, the Ministry of Shipping gave an opinion in favor of shipping. It is said that Hajj can be done at low cost if the ship goes by sea. This time, going to Haj under private management will cost 6 lakh 72 thousand 618 taka.

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Shipping Ferdous Alam told Prothom Alo that the initiative to go to Hajj by ship is good. After a positive response from the Prime Minister, the proposal will be sent to the Saudi Arabian government through the Ministry of Religion.

However, officials of the Ministry of Religion say that the agreement with Saudi Arabia must be amended to transport pilgrims by ship. Apart from that, where the immigration of pilgrims going by water will be, is also a matter of discussion.

Abul Kashem Muhammad Shaheen, Deputy Secretary of the Hajj Branch of the Ministry of Religion, told Prothom Alo that the agreement between the Bangladesh government and Saudi Arabia for Hajj every year mentions airplanes, not ships. Apart from that, it will take more time by sea. If someone gets sick, who will take responsibility? He said, ‘We have informed about these problems. If you want to take pilgrims by sea, you have to discuss with the government of Saudi Arabia. We need to know whether they agree or not. Then another process has to be done.