Waterways still unsafe

Strengthen vigilance to curb mishaps

Published : 21 Mar 2022 07:31 PM

We are saddened over the death of 7 passengers and missing of 20 others, who met their tragic fate on Sunday after a launch capsized in the Shitalakkhya River in Narayanganj. This tragic accident questioned the safety of the country’s water transportation sector once again.

The launch named 'MM Ashraf Uddin' which was heading towards Munshiganj with 50 passengers, capsized in the river as it collided with a goods-laden cargo ship 'MV Rupsi-9' around 2 pm on Sunday near Al-Amin Nagar area under Sadar upazila of the district. After the collision, half of the passengers of the launch managed to swim ashore.

The authorities concerned will also have 

to strengthen vigilance and conduct 

raids frequently

One year ago at least 27 people died after a small launch carrying over 100 passengers capsized after colliding with a cargo vessel in the same river.  In the last 30 years from 1991 to 2021, some 902 waterway accidents had been reported in the country that claimed 3,735 lives, injured 926 people and left over 500 missing, according to the department of shipping.

A recent research says collisions accounted for 61.72% of all waterway accidents from 2008 to 2019.  These accidents accounted for 53% of fatalities and 46.5% of casualties on waterways. Around half of the accidents, mostly collisions, are caused by cargo ships and trawlers. Immediately after such accident, several high-powered probe committees were formed to know the reasons behind the launch capsize. But most of the probe committees’ reports on launch accidents in different parts of country remain undisclosed. Reports prepared by inquiry committees over the years have not been published for unknown reasons. 

Most of the masters, boatmen, and workers of water vessels, who violate the law and responsible for casualties on waterways remain untouched. Therefore, the families of the ill-fated people, who died in the launch or trawlers capsize in rivers do not get justice.

The shipping ministry has taken various steps to improve the quality of passenger service including making the inland navigation safe and uninterrupted but collision between trawler and bulkhead or launch and ship continue occurring throughout the country.

Until December 2021, there were 13,486 registered vessels operating in the country but the number of unregistered ones will exceed it. According to vessel owners and workers' leaders some 20,000 unregistered vessels including sand carrying ships (bulkhead), trawler and speed boats are currently plying in the country’s inland waterways.

Bangladesh is enriched with about 2,400km of waterways and for centuries, these waterways have been the most common, traditional, and cheapest way for people to travel in this region. Waterways are considered more economical and environment-friendly than other modes of transportation. Therefore, the government must make its sincere efforts to create safe river routes considering the interests of all including workers, owners and the people. In this regard, the authorities will also have to strengthen vigilance and conduct raid frequently.