The ill-fated vessel MV Pinak-6 was overcrowded far beyond its capacity of 85 people. There was no effective safety watch either at Kawrakandi ferry terminal in Madaripur.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), the shipping department, Madaripur district administration and police are to enforce loading regulations at the terminal, but all of them apparently failed at their job.
With around 200 passengers on board, the launch sank in the mighty Padma yesterday morning.
GSM Zafar Ullah, deputy commissioner of Madaripur, said though the Eid-ul-Fitr passed six days ago, the rush of capital-bound people was still on. He claimed that the Eid rush management committee was vigilant at the terminal.
Asked how the vessel under watch left for Mawa ferry terminal with so many passengers, he said, “I really don't know how it happened. It's merely an accident. I heard the launch boarded at Kathalbari of Shariatpur on its way to Mawa.”
Saiful Haque Khan, a BIWTA deputy director for marine safety and traffic management at Dhaka river port, said the traffic management inspector was supposed to ensure safety of the vessel.
Talking to this newspaper, BIWTA Chairman Samsuddoha Khandaker said, “No marine safety and traffic management inspector of BIWTA was present at Kawrakandi terminal when the vessel departed. There is only one inspector at Mawa office who visits Kawrakandi off and on.”
The Eid rush management committee was in a lax mood as the festival was celebrated six days ago, he mentioned.
He suspected that strong waves caused by gusty wind might have caught the vessel in a turbulent whirlpool.
However, Dhaka Met office said it did not record any such gusty wind in that area yesterday.
Requesting anonymity, a shipping department official said they cannot ensure safety of vessels across the country with only four inspectors.
According to sources at Department of Shipping, fitness (survey) certificate of Pinak-6 expired on April 30, but it kept plying without any renewal. It secured a 45-day provisional fitness on May 1 and then again on July 18.
The vessel was registered (no-15127) with the department on November 8, 2003, with a capacity of 85 passengers. It was first named as Bismillah-2. Later it was renamed Ruposhi-2 and finally MV Pinak-6 in August 2007.
Though Moniruzzaman Khan Khokon is the owner of the launch as per official documents, it is now run by one Kalu Miah, said sources.
Mahbub Uddin Ahmed, chairman of Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passenger Carriers Association, said since MV Pinak is not a member of the association, they do not have any detail of the vessel owner.
Some 86 small vessels (100 feet x 20 feet) ferry passengers between Mawa and Kawrakandi launch terminals round the clock.