In an impressive burst of urgent diplomacy, Bangladesh this week managed to bring back the stranded crew members of the MV Banglar Samriddhi, a vessel belonging to the Shipping Corporation (BSC) that got caught up in the outbreak of war at a Ukranian port on its Black Sea coast, Olvia. The Bangladesh embassy in Warsaw, Poland, coordinated their rescue, eventually putting them on a plane back home from Bucharest, Romania.
A general sense of good cheer, relief and gratefulness - to the government, and even higher powers - punctuated the air. Except there was one more family than the number of sailors who returned, and unlike the others, they were absolutely distraught, and inconsolable. This obviously was the view held by the family of the ship's third engineer, 32-year-old Hadisur Rahman, for whom the initiative to bring the crew back had been too late. In fact, you could say Hadisur had paid with his life, so that other members of his crew could be saved.
On March 2, Banglar Samriddhi was struck by a missile as twilight fell over the Black Sea coast. The main control room (Navigation Bridge) of the ship was totally destroyed, and the main power supply system also got damaged. Although the entire crew of the ship was on board at the time, no one except the young third engineer was even hurt. Now this wasn't the first time Bangladeshis had heard of the plight of the Banglar Samriddhi. It was being covered widely - tv channels, news sites, the papers, you name it -and invariably these reports included some plea for help from the crew. Our sister newsagency UNB first reported on the Banglar Samriddhi on February 27.
Despite these early reports, you could see how it wasn't being taken very seriously. Some members of the crew were prolific on social media, and from their updates you could see they were getting increasingly nervous about the situation at the port. At times they reported hearing heavy, sustained shelling in the distance.
Whether Hadisur even spotted the rocket that speared into the vessel around 5.25pm (9.25pm in Bangladesh) on the fateful day, we'll never know. He was alone on duty at the bridge. But it certainly stirred the government's machinery into action. Till then, Dhaka had been happy to let the crew on the ship do their own risk assessments each night, and choose the best course of action. But now after news of Hadisur's death causes an outpouring of grief across the country, the government finally comes to its senses. The very next day, the surviving members of the crew are told to abandon the ship, and moved to an inland bunker. Foreign Ministry officials stationed in three European capitals - Warsaw, Bucharest and Vienna - get involved to ensure their safe passage to Moldova, and from there on to Romania.
The efficiency with which the eventual rescue operation was executed deserves to be appreciated. Even praised. Yet it also reflects that the job was always doable - it was all just a question of doing it. If anything, it would have been even more straightforward, if executed earlier. So I hope that after seeing Hadisur's father looking completely shellshocked and broken, or hearing his mother lamenting how she would never get to feed her son again, or just listening to his brother talk about losing the hero he looked up to, our officials can make the following important pledge amongst themselves: the next time they face a similar situation, they will not wait till somebody drops dead before deciding to act on it.
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