Waterway accidents in Bangladesh

Published : 17 Apr 2021 09:21 PM | Updated : 18 Apr 2021 12:09 AM

Barek Kaiser

Haradhan Saha is a rice trader who lost his wife and two sons in a waterway accident. The body of his elder son (Bikash Saha) was recovered from inside the launch which was going to Munshiganj and sank near the coal mine of Narayanganj in Shitalakshya River. The body of his wife Anita Rani Saha was recovered from Shitalakshya River. But his younger son Anik is still missing.

The number of waterway accidents in Bangladesh is increasing. Although various initiatives have been taken to prevent maritime accidents, passenger safety still has not been ensured. Every year many people are killed in launch accidents. In the last 22 years, there have been more than 700 small and large launch accidents. About 6,500 women, men and children were killed. An inquiry committee is formed after each incident but most of the time their reports do not get published.

At least 29 people were killed when a cargo ship sank in the Shitalakshya River recently. The Ministry of Shipping constituted a seven-member inquiry committee to look into the real cause of the launch sinking and determine its responsibilities and submit a report with recommendations. The committee had been convened by the joint secretary of the Ministry of Shipping, Abdus Chhattar Sheikh. 

Following the accident, BIWTA Chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said, "We are always trying to bring the number of waterway accidents to zero quotas. Now if anyone does not obey the law, they will be punished according to the law. In this case, everyone must be aware.”

Experts say that it is possible to avoid waterway accident by forming a monitoring group. Negligence in law enforcement and lack of coordinated activities on the waterways, mismanagement of inland water transport, opacity and disabilities are the main causes of accidents.

Analysts say there are generally 15 reasons behind the increasing number of launch accidents. Various organizations have conducted surveys at different times and revealed these reasons. The reasons are design flaws in the launch, incompetence of the launch operator, negligence of the master-sukani, carrying two to three times the capacity of passengers, violation of safety rules, lack of lights or searchlights, competition between two launches on the way, reckless driving, lack of weather forecast, lack of adequate lifebuoys, lack of carbon dioxide cylinders on the launch, technical faults in the launch, lack of fitness, unpreparedness for possible accidents during the festival and keeping fishing nets without warning signs.

Although waterway accident has become a common phenomenon in Bangladesh very little has been done about it. There are still many launches transporting   without fitness certificate. Most of the launches do not have enough life-saving system. 

Therefore, the government should immediately address these issues in order to reduce the number of waterway accidents. 

Barek Kaiser is a PhD Researcher at Peoples' Friendship University, Moscow, Russia.