A government investigation has found that at least five marine engineers had falsified official certificates they needed to qualify for jobs at both home and abroad.
Officials in the Department of Shipping (DOS) said the engineers had forged their Certificates of Competency (COC) to get jobs at Marine Service Co. Ltd., a Saudi Arabia-based shipping company.
A source involved with the investigation said the engineers apparently colluded with some 'corrupt' officials in the department who helped to falsify the signatures of the director general and the chief examiner.
He said a number of engineers might be working in foreign shipping companies based on similar false certificates.
The investigation began after the Saudi Arabian company sent three e-mails to the department to verify that the five engineers indeed were legitimate. The first two e-mails were ignored, but the third, sent in January, went directly to the DG, who then ordered the probe.
It revealed that the five engineers did not participate in competency evaluation examination, which concludes four years of study at the Marine Academy in Chittagong. The exam is required to make sure the seaman can operate and maintain engines and other major equipment on a ship.
The five were identified as Nazmul Hassan Bhuiyan (class 2 engineer officer); Md Nazmul Hasan (class 3 engineer officer); Sheikh Mohammad Moorsalin (class 2 deck officer); Saiful Islam Rasel (Class 2 deck officer); and Mizanur Rahman (class 3 deck officer). Department officials aren't sure whether the names were real of fakes, the investigation source said.
In addition to the five, another fake certificate holder was identified on March 30 at the Bangladesh Shipping Corporation (BSC) in Chittagong. He worked in a foreign ship for one and half years and a Bangladesh ship called the 'Banglar Robi' for three months. After it was discovered that his certificate had been faked, the engineer managed to flee from the ship, said an officer of the ship.
According to the 1983 Merchant Shipping Ordinance, anyone caught falsifying a COC can face up to two years of prison and a fine of Tk 10,000.
"Whenever the authorities of any foreign companies demand authentication from us, we investigate it," said Bazlur Rahman, director general of the Department of Shipping. His signature wasn't forged on the certificates in question but that of his predecessor.
Rahman admitted that a syndicate within the department might be assisting engineers in obtaining falsified certificates. He said legal action would be taken against the department insiders once they were identified. To avoid such falsification in future, all information and documents of seafarers certified by the department will be digitised, he added.
Rahman also said there's a demand for Bangladeshi marine engineers around the world, but foreign companies may lose interest if such corruption becomes widely known.