With the approval of the Shipping Ministry, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) is considering selling the loss incurring water buses that were introduced to reduce pressure on road transports.
The water buses will be auctioned or tendered for sale. Negotiations are underway to sell these water buses as the purpose of the vessels was not fulfilled, rather large amounts of revenue had been lost with no opportunity of the resurrection of these water buses in the foreseeable future.
At present 5 out of 12 water buses are obsolete. Four out of the seven water buses are plying on the Buriganga river. One is being used by the officers and employees of the company in Chittagong and the rest is lying without any function.
BIWTC Chairman Syed Md Tajul Islam told Bangladesh Post that selling is the viable option, however, no decision has been made yet. The matter will be decided after discussion with the ministry.
“The water buses are not sustainable. Losses keep increasing by the day. Small boats and other vessels occupy the river making it more time-consuming for the water vessels to reach their destinations. Hence, people are reluctant to use the water bus as a medium of convenient transport,” he said.
According to BIWTC officials, there were many obstacles that lead to the fate of these vessels. The height of the water bus was not suitable. Moreover, its movement was not compatible with the bends of the rivers around Dhaka.
It takes less time to reach Sadarghat from Gabtali via bus compared to that of the water busses. Furthermore, there is a strong stench coming from the water of Buriganga river that acts as a discouraging factor for the potential passengers, they added.
At a recent board meeting of BIWTC, a proposal was made for the sale of these water buses. In that proposal, it was highlighted that the amount of this loss will increase in the coming days.
The Shimulia-Kanthalbari and Paturia-Daulatdia ferry routes are the main routes of the water buses however they will further lose their purpose when the Padma Bridge become active next year, easing traffic congestions.
The processing of the sales will start with the consent of State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and Naval Secretary Mohammad Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury.
BIWTC procured 12 water buses in three phases in four years from August 2010 to November 2014. The company bought two water buses in August 2010 for Tk 1.1 cr. The two water buses were launched on the Badamtali-Gabtoli route during that time. Four more water buses were procured in June 2013 at a cost of Tk 3.45 crore. In November 2014, six more were brought in at a cost of Tk 5.1 crore.
At present four water buses are surfing the river Buriganga along with small boats and passengers. They are each said to be earning a few thousand taka per month.
On the other hand, water buses on Turag-Buriganga routes are lying idle. Water Bus-6 was hired by a private company for manpower crossing in Chittagong but it has been recently returned to BIWTC.
Further losses for the water buses have to be incurred every month due to repairs, salary of the employees engaged, depreciation of the vessels etc. Hence, the decision to dissolve the whole initiative is being highly considered by the concerned bodies.