by F R Chowdhury


In British-India period people from present Bangladesh started joining merchant ships. Those days most of the British ships used to have officers from UK and ratings from Indian sub-continent. After creation of Pakistan, we still saw British officers in Pakistani ships that were gradually replaced by West Pakistanis (with elite family connections). There were only a few East Pakistani officers. It all started changing after establishment of the Marine Academy at Juldia, Chittagong in 1962. Mr. Sabur Khan of Khulna (former communication minister of Pakistan) and Mr. Fazlul Qader Chowdhury of Chittagong (former Speaker of the Pakistan National Assembly) played pioneering role. But the man whose dynamic action expedited the opening of the academy was Lt-Gen. Azam Khan (the then Governor of East Pakistan). May Allah bless their departed souls to rest in peace in heaven.

The academy served its purpose very well. Within a few years ships under national flag got all officers of its nationality. Today they are serving all over the world – both on ships as well as ashore. Cluster of our marine community are there in Hong Kong, Australia, Singapore, Mid-East, UK, USA and Canada. It is story of success that the nation can be proud of. The marine academy and its graduates provided the inspirations to others who came to merchant navy through direct entry or from navy or even from fishing fleet. Today they stand together as a community.

The Academy was established basically to produce officers for merchant marine. The normal fulfilment of career would be achieved by becoming a ship-master or marine chief engineer. However, the more intelligent officers would often be employed ashore in marine related jobs such as superintendent, manager, marine pilot, harbour-master, workshop and shipyard managers. Many of them also joined training institutes to train younger generation and others joined as government safety surveyors and inspectors. Many sea-going chief engineers joined reputable classification societies like Lloyds, ABS, DNV-GL etc.

This article is about those who have gone beyond the horizon stated above. Career at sea gives a great opportunity to learn so much about this world – go places, meet people, get to know about their history, geography and culture apart from the fact that most of the ocean-going ships today have multi-racial crew. On long voyages across Atlantic and Pacific there is always enough time to study subject of your choice. As a cadet and junior officer I came across senior officers who would regularly study Time, News Week, Economist, Readers’ Digest and National Geographic. No wonder merchant marine officers are very knowledgeable persons. Many of our community members have studied different subjects and ventured into different activities. It appears that most of them have done it more for glory and to achieve diversity in life.

I shall start with Mazharul Anwar Chowdhury of First batch. While in Karachi undergoing workshop training, he passed BA (Bachelor of Arts) from Karachi University. Later while working in BIWTA, he passed LLB (Bachelor of Law) examination under Dhaka University. He also obtained the bar licence and but never practised law. He was a happy man with his additional knowledge.

Next person I am going to talk about is Capt. Hussain Imam of Second batch. To the best of my knowledge he remains perhaps the only one from our community who ventured into sea fishing. Together with Mr Mumtaz Bhuiyan he set up Imam Fishing Ltd. They were the pioneer private sea-fishing company. The owned and operated a number of trawlers and other fishing vessels for many years. They now have the expertise that they can transfer to others.

The 1971 liberation war gave an opportunity to Awal Mintu and Suhrawardi. Both of them initially defected in the United States but later established themselves. Mintu returned to Bangladesh with his American education, training and skill; and today he is one of the most successful industrialists in the country. Suhrawardi remained in the US and is now the owner of his business empire in New Jersey. Suhrawardi has set-up cadet college style school in his home at Matlab. Engr. Munir also jumped ship in New Orleans, La. Apart from marine engineering he also obtained university degree in electrical and mechanical engineering.

Captain Imam Anwar Hossain started with shipping business with owned ships, chartered ship and carried on with agency and ship-management business. He was one of the pioneers in garment industry. He finally ventured into financial service with bank and insurance.

Hannan and Subrata (10/E) were two bright stars of the academy. When undergoing workshop training with Narayanganj Dockyard both of them enrolled themselves in a local college and passed B.Sc. (Bachelor of Science) degree. They stood first and second respectively.

This article will not come to an end unless I put on record the achievements of Fazle Rabbi. He obtained Deck Officer Class One Master Mariner certificate. He also obtained a Ph.D. (doctorate) from Southampton University. He was teaching in that university when he started with accountancy and finally became a Chartered Accountant. He now owns his accountancy firm in London. He is the one who achieved highest certificates in two different professional fields. He is unique. Another unique person is Mar Engr Dilwar Ali of 6/E. He works for the City Council of Melbourne, Australia as Safety Surveyor for building and structures. What a job for a marine engineer!

Sakhawat Hossain of 16th batch and Ghulam Sarwar of 19th batch have shown their entrepreneurship in ship-building industry. Western Marine under the leadership of Sakhawat is now perhaps the best and biggest ship-builder in Bangladesh. Prantik group headed by Sarwar is engaged apart from ship-building in innovative shipping including direct container service in coastal trade.

Dr. Khurshid Alam of 10/E has obtained so many degrees from universities in Bangladesh, Australia and the United Kingdom. Finally he obtained Ph.D (doctorate) in Environmental Engineering from National University of Singapore. He is now Regional Manager of DNV-GL in Singapore. Akhtar Hossain of 4/E obtained a degree in electrical engineering and is now perhaps the head of electrical division of the US Coast Guard.

Capt. Monawar Jahangir of 18/N obtained LLB (Hons) and is perhaps the only Bangladeshi mariner to become a Bar-at-law (Barrister in Law). Capt. Barrister Jahangir works for the Bahamas Maritime Authority and is now stationed in Hong Kong. Capt. Mohiuddin Abdul Kader of 19/N is also a qualified lawyer and deals with most of the P&I claims in Bangladesh.

Mar-Engr. Tareq of 23/E developed his knowledge and skill in electronics and software engineering to such an extent that he was hired by Northrop, famous defence contractor for US Navy (aviation wing). He has recently invented a sorting machine for postal services. His machine is now used by US Post, UPS and FedEx. A great achievement for a Bangladeshi mariner!

Mirza Sainul Hassan of 25/E has obtained M.Sc. from Glasgow Strath-Clyde University. He also achieved Chartered Engineer status. He is now Global Technology Manger for Shell Marine. Wasiur Rauf of 35/E obtained M.Sc. degree and is now employed perhaps as head of technical department of BP Shipping.

Capt. Ghulam Hossain of 11/N has an MBA and LLM degree. He also achieved FCILT and FICS apart from FNI. He works for the Nautical Institute (NI) and he is in charge of accreditation. He approves DP courses on behalf of NI. Capt. Qamrul Siraj of 27/N has the distinction of being the first and so far the only (offshore) rig master from Bangladesh.

Another mariner Ariful Islam of 40/E has taken a bold business adventure abroad. He has set-up a marine workshop in Australia named AIS Marine Services. They undertake all types of marine repair and maintenance work – hull, mechanical, electrical, air-conditioning, refrigeration and radio-communication. They also work on ships with boarding party while the ship continues to sail on Australian coast. AIS employ lot of Bangladeshis in Australia.

Some of our community members who never went to Marine Academy also achieved lot of success. Capt. Moin U. Ahmed served IMO as a P-5 officer and is now Director General of IMSO. Capt. Nurur Rahman is the head of the maritime administration in PNG (Papua New-Guinea). Capt. Faizur Rahman (son of late Capt. M. L. Rahman) obtained B.A. degree and then MBA. To the best of my knowledge, from among the Bangladeshi mariners, he is perhaps the first and so far the only member of the Mar Ar. Of LMAA (London Marine Arbitration Association).

I have not included those who obtained M.Sc. degree from WMU and a few other qualifications that were sponsored by the Government. I may have failed, purely due to lack of knowledge/ information, to include many more who perhaps achieved similar success in life. I apologise for such unintentional shortcoming. It is not a question of who is higher than whom. It is not even meant to glorify or condemn anyone. Mistakes are evident and I apologise again.

As I compile this list, I remember with gratitude how Capt. S.M. Abdullah of 14/N had compiled the first list of all Bangladeshi mariners (batch-wise, direct, nautical, engineering, electrical, radio etc.). Mar-Engr. Baten of 18/E is now the custodian/ moderator of our “bdmariners” that has a common communication platform. Baten has become the centre point of our community. Capt. Zillur Rahman Bhuiyan of 11/N has been providing great leadership to the community. His coordinated actions finally resulted into release of our seafarers from Nigerian jail.  Minar Rashid 21/E has a flair in literature whose writing has distinctive panache, is one of the nation’s gifted political essayists.

My effort to put together achievements by members of our community is to recognise their hard work and dedication. The community as a whole feel proud of such diverse achievements by our mariners. Juniors can draw inspiration to achieve even higher glories. May Allah help the community to achieve further success and contribute to the development of the country.

London, 23-August-2016                                                      fazlu.chowdhury@btinternet.com



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