Acause behind the recurrent launch accidents is - allowing a ship to be constructed violating the approved design and getting it surveyed, approved, registered for trading and plying by the shipping department. Reportedly, in the past, the surveyors issued certificate of fitness for the coastal vessels at the rate of "five vessels per hour" during their official working hours.
We put an end to such mal-practice and terminated those who were issuing those illegal certificates that led to many manmade disasters.
It's important to dwell on a few recent launch accidents for a clearer understanding:
* Sathil-1:- Approved design draft was 1.68 meter but was constructed with a draft of 0.88 meter. The vessel was surveyed and registered by the surveyor by adding extra 30 person capacity in the certificate. It sank on 3rd May 2014 taking, according to the official figure, 30 passengers with it. An investigation was carried out by fellow surveyor and the blame was put on the weather hiding the main cause and consequently the Registrar and Surveyor survived.
* Miraj-4:- Approved design draft was 1.8 meter which was far less in comparison to the approved length and breadth; additionally eight extra luxurious cabins were erected at the top making the vessel totally unstable. These unauthorized modifications were approved by the surveyor due to lack of knowledge and greed. The launch sank on 15 May 2014 with official death toll of 150 passengers. Investigating officer was another fellow surveyor and the blame ultimately was put on the weather again.
* Pinak-6:- It was originally a wooden body launch. Later it was modified to a steel body (2008/2009) launch but constructed by deviating from the approved design. The vessel over the years were surveyed and approved for plying by the department of shipping surveyors ignoring safety of the lives and properties of the passengers. The launch sank with approximately 300 passengers.
Worst of all, the readers will be shocked to learn that, the design and construction supervision of ships in recent years are carried out by a chemist of Department of Shipping while, surveyors / inspectors have been found busy issuing seaman ID cards to persons with fake experience and qualifications.
In the last two decades there were 392 such accidents, officially claiming some 3,567 lives while the bodies of 401 others have never been found, according to information provided by the Department of Shipping. It is simply unacceptable to see a large number of people dying every year because of manmade causes and negligence on the part of the administration and other stake holders. It's high time that a stop was put to these criminal activities and these criminal brought to justice.
The writer is President, Society of Master Mariners, Bangladesh