Water vessels lack safety standards
Eid-ul-fitr is just around the corner. About 20 triple deck water transports make double and triple journeys to carry passengers on Dhaka-Barisal route during Eid rush.
Passengers traveling on triple deck launches, even though they may reach Barisal port safely, travel with life risk while continuing their journey to the villages, on inner and inter district routes, using water vessels, so as to avoid road transportation in view of the dilapidated condition of roads, absence of road connectivity, and high fare, said Enayet Hossain Chowdhury, a civic rights activist.
Every year, during this season nor’wester is a common phenomenon, and the condition of most of the rivers become risky as new-moon, and monsoon rain make the water routes turbulent with high waves, strong current, and gusty winds, he said.
Ahead of every Eid, when launch owners’ business hits its peak, with maddening rush of home goers, the safety issues come to the fore. But ignoring the safety standards, the launch owners press these vessels into service for long haul journeys to connect almost 22 inner and inter-district river routes in the rough weather, Enayet alleged.
All these vessels ply the inland waterways with impunity. A lack of adequate number of skilled, trained or licensed crew, operation of unfit, and unregistered vessels make the waterways highly risky.
Barisal River Port authority, under Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), and district administration, operate mobile courts only to check documents, and prevent overloading, mainly on Dhaka-Barisal-Dhaka routes, said Dr. Mizanur Rahman, member secretary of Barisal Nagorik Parishad.
The Shipping Ministry is empowered to stop the plying of unfit or overloaded vessels, and checking to see if the vessels are being operated by skilled manpower with fitness, said Azmal Huda Mithu, deputy director BIWTA and Barisal river port officer.
Ekin Ali Master, joint secretary of Bangladesh Water Transport Workers Association, said most of the launches plying on 22 internal river routes of Barisal, Jhalakathi, Barguna, Patuakhali, Pirojpur, and Bhola districts carry more than 50 thousand passengers, and goods during Eid days.
Most of these launches have no certified crew, valid fitness, and route permits, which fact may only be detected after an accident.
It is more expensive to appoint trained master and driver in launches, plying on local routes, with less number of passengers round the year, except rushes on the two Eid festivals, said Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice-president district launch owners association.
A huge number of trawlers and speedboats, carrying passengers, and goods ply different routes of the region from Kali Babur Kheya Ghat, DC ghat, and Barisal port without paying any tax to the government. These vessels also do not have any registration, fitness certificate, route permit, and skilled manpower, he said.