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Mad race to anchor vessels leading to accidents, which remain largely ignored

  • Published at 05:34 pm June 29th, 2020
File photo: Rescue team recovering bodies from Buriganga River on Monday, June 29, 2020 Md Manik/Dhaka Tribune

There are allegations that many drivers (masters) do not anchor their vessels at their designated place which leads to accidents, sometimes injuring passengers

Sadarghat, Dhaka’s major inland waterways terminal, has always been a hub of anarchy when it comes to the anchoring of water vessels, especially launches.

From sunrise to late at night, complete chaos continues due to an ill competition of finding the best possible spot for anchoring at the terminal which has become a factor, if not the main factor, behind accidents -- both minor and major ones -- on the Buriganga River.

The latest of these accidents took place early Monday, when the launch ML Morning Bird was hit by another launch, Moyour-2, which was bigger, leaving 32 dead.

Experts have blamed the negligence of launch owners, drivers, and the lack of proper monitoring for the accidents that have claimed the lives of many on the river considered to be the lifeline of the capital. 

There are allegations that many drivers (masters) do not anchor their vessels at their designated place which leads to accidents, sometimes injuring passengers.

Meanwhile, passengers, in order to get on their desired vessels, rent small wooden boats taking advantage of lax monitoring by the terminal's security staff.

“Also, a race amongst launch owners to reach and leave the terminal at the earliest time possible is another core reason for these fatal incidents,” the experts added.

“Security officials at the terminal, such as Ansar members, are too busy stopping  passengers from travelling without a ticket. But they don’t monitor the regular incidents of collisions and accidents when the vessels are anchoring,” they said.

Currently, the terminal has space to accommodate around 25 launches, which is inadequate relative to demand. More and more launches are getting permission to operate every year but the space for anchoring remains the same, they said, urging the government to expand the terminal area to avoid such catastrophic consequences.  

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads, and Railways (NCPSRR) General Secretary Ashish Kumer Dey, said: “There has been a demand on several occasions regarding the extension of the terminal area, so that small launches and those which are bigger can anchor separately to prevent accidents.

“The installation of new pontoons does not require much space. The government has already evacuated illegal establishments from the shores of the Buriganga River. So, if separate spaces can be dedicated for anchoring of different size launches then these tragedies will be avoided.”

He said that mismanagement and lack of surveillance at the Sadarghat launch terminal are some of the main reasons behind these fatal accidents. 

“And because of this, numerous incidents of boats, launches and other water vessels colliding with each other, getting into accidents everyday, largely remain ignored,” he added. 

He demanded district wise designated spots for anchoring of launches to reduce pressure on the terminal.

Contacted, Mohammad Rafiqul Islam, director of marine safety and traffic management at the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), said: “A project has been initiated to decentralize the Sadarghat terminal area.

“We have developed a project proposal for establishing a terminal in the capital’s Shyampur area. Once it gets final approval, it will reduce pressure on Sadarghat. The alternative terminal at Shyampur will help us designate separate spots for anchoring of small and large launches,” he added.

The BIWTA director also said they are holding meetings with the Launch Owners’ Association to ensure that passengers cannot get on a vessel once it has departed from the terminal to avoid accidents.

State Minister for Shipping, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, said: “When a launch anchors at the Sadarghat, it remains there for some time and then gets sent to a designated place.

“River Police and the BIWTA coordinate these activities. We are trying to improve our coordination so that there are no further reports of accidents during anchoring,” he said.

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