HR Lines is the first Bangladesh company to make it to the prestigious Alphaliner list of the world’s top 100 container vessel companies. This Bangladeshi company ranks at 71 on the latest list of Alphaliner, the global shipping-related information, research and solution provider.
Two ranks above Bangladesh’s HR Lines on the list is neighbouring India’s state-owned Shipping Corp of India. No other shipping company of South Asia appears on this list. And in terms of the private sector, HR Lines now tops the list in South Asia. Alphaliner draws up the list of container shipping companies based on container carrying capacity.
By entering this list for the first time, HR Lines has heralded Bangladesh’s presence in the world of container shipping lines.
HR Lines is a subsidiary of Karnaphuly Limited. It is the only operator of ocean going container vessels of Bangladesh. This national flag carrier has the capacity to carry containers of around 9,000 units or TEU with its fleet of six vessels. All the vessels are under ownership of the main company Karnaphuly Limited. HR Lines is run by the two offspring of ruling party member of parliament Saber Hossain Chowdhury.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, managing director of HR Lines and director of Karnaphuly Limited, Raimah Chowdhury, said clinching a place on the global list for the first time is a matter of honour not just for HR Lines, but for the country too. HR Lines wants to advance further, providing clients with the best service.
The Denmark-based Maersk has long topped this list of container vessel shipping companies. Switzerland’s Mediterranean Shipping Company has overtaken it this time to grab the top place. By entering this list for the first time, HR Lines has heralded Bangladesh’s presence in the world of container shipping lines.
In just a year and a half
This new entrant to the global list, HR Lines was launched yet one and a half years ago, amidst the prevalence of the Covid pandemic. It began in June 2020 with two vessels, MV Sabera and MV Sahare. Then another four vessels were added to the fleet last year. These six vessels are operating on the Chattogram to Singapore, Port Kelang and Chattogram to Colombo, Sri Lanka routes. Most of Bangladesh’s import goods arrives from around the world by these routes. These two routes are also used for exporting goods abroad.
Container vessels from Chattogram port go to China, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Italy. There are around 85 vessels with around 150,000 TEU capacity of 25 companies from various countries of the world presently operating on these routes. While companies like Maersk, MSC, CMA, CGM and other top shipping companies of the world operate vessels on the Chattogram route, HR Lines is the only Bangladeshi company.
Bangladesh Flag Vessels (Protection) Ordinance 2019 mandates that at least 50 per cent of the seaborne cargo be transported by Bangladesh flag vessels. Even without this advantage, HR Lines has been running its business with upscale service. Now 25 per cent of the Chattogram-Colombo route container transportation is carries out by this local shipping lines. And overall, this company vessels bears 8 per cent of all container transportation from Chattogram port.
Karnaphuly Limited, the mother company of HR Lines, is this country’s first generation company in the shipping business. The business group was started up way back in 1958 by Hedayet Hossain Chowdhury. After his son Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the company is now being run by the third generation. It began its agency for container shipping companies 34 years ago. It is involved in four feeder operator companies and five mainline operator agencies. Other than shipping, it has investment in a private container depot and logistics company.
Six vessels of HR Lines carry 17,000 containers every month at present. This brings in around USD 3.5 million to 3.6 million or Tk 30 crore every month for the company. By bringing in local imported cargo, the company is indirectly saving the country foreign exchange.
According to Alphaliner records, another six vessels with the capacity to carry 17,400 containers will soon be added to the HR Lines fleet. This will boost the company’s container cargo carrying capacity by 188 per cent.
When asked about this, Karnaphuly Limited managing director and HR Lines director Hamdan Hossain Chowdhury told Prothom Alo, “We are actively considering an expansion of the HR Lines fleet in the coming days.”
Of Bangladesh’s 80 sea vessels, only six are container carrying vessels. And all six belong to HR Lines
Bangladesh container shipping company history was started by the founder of HRC Group founder Sayeed Hossain Chowdhury in 1997. QC Container Line began around the same time. Both the companies wrapped up their business within 10 years. Then 10 years after that, Sayeed Hossain Chowdhury’s younger brother Saber Hossain Chowdhury MP began this business again. And now Saber Hossain Chowdhury’s company had grabbed a spot among the world’s top 100.
Of Bangladesh’s 80 sea vessels, only six are container carrying vessels. And all six belong to HR Lines. Entrepreneurs in this sector are viewing this as a promising area of investment like general cargo vessels.
President of the Ocean Going Ship Owners Association and Chairman of East Coast Group, Azam J Chowdhury, told Prothom Alo cargo transport by container vessels is increasing worldwide. This has created a big area for investment. While there is only one company in the country in this sector at present, there is wide scope for investment. This requires the government’s increased policy support for the ocean going shipping industry.
* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir