Prantik: The story behind Bangladesh’s first marine salvage company


Prantik: The story behind Bangladesh’s first marine salvage company

The Business Standard 29 September 2021

PANORAMA sat down with the passionate founder of the country’s first marine salvage company to hear his story and that of his company

The submerged Southern Queen being refloated. Photo: Courtesy

In 2001, a ship named Southern Queen caught fire at Chattogram port’s Jetty no 1. 

In a bid to save the vessel, and also to stop the fuel from burning, the port authority sank it deliberately by pumping water into it. 

By the following morning, nothing but the masts of the vessel were visible. The entire ship was underwater. 

Golam Sarwar, an ex-mariner, was painfully watching the debacle. Sarwar had left his marine life only a few years back to start a ship repair company called ‘Prantik’. 

As a sailor himself, he does not like to see ships sink.

“A thought crossed my mind. If someone gave me the job to lift up this vessel, what would I do?” Sarwar told The Business Standard. 

Three days after the vessel sank, he got a call from an insurance surveyor. He was also an acquaintance. Surprisingly, the surveyor said they were looking for a salvage contractor. 

“I told him that I had not done any salvage work before. But he insisted that I come and have a look,” Sarwar said. 

Since the ex-mariner had been thinking about how the ship could be raised, he already had the “tide and lifting method” in mind when they asked him for a methodology. 

“The difference of water height in Bangladesh during low and high tide is often four to five metres. So, it was about using the force of the water. If we tied it in low tide and pushed it up in high tide to shallow water, we could pump the rest up,” he explained. 

Sarwar submitted a technical proposal and quotation. He said his first quotation was only $300,00, which was substantially lower than the regular market price. 

“I had no idea about the price,” he said. “My second quotation was for three million US dollars,” he added. 

Sarwar’s Prantik was the sole company to pitch from Bangladesh and won the assignment. Thus, the country’s first-ever salvage company began to operate. 

Sarwar believes that it was his confidence that did it for him. 

Golam Sarwar. Illustration: TBS

“If you do not have the confidence, no matter how much technical capacity you have, you cannot do it. Funding and other technical issues will eventually fall into place. But if you do not believe in your own methodology, it will not work,” the founder said, sharing his mantra for success.

Prantik eventually refloated the Southern Queen vessel in three months. His methodology was praised in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong’s engineering magazines. 

There are only a few salvage companies in Bangladesh today. Sarwar said Prantik is the only local salvage company recognised by the International Salvage Union (ISU). 

“Today when any foreign-bound ship is damaged and the channel gets blocked; we get instant calls. Moreover, we do rescue operations for the Chattogram port authority, navy and the coast guard as well,” Sarwar mentioned.  

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