Accidents in the country's river routes have claimed over 3,600 lives between 1991 and 2018, Shipping Department Director General Commodore Syed Ariful Islam said yesterday.
Of them, some 1,700 lives were lost due to capsizing of passenger vessels, he told a discussion at the capital's Cirdap.
The Shipping Department arranged the discussion, marking Maritime Safety Week-2019 that began on March 30.
Ariful said the department arranged a public hearing to learn about the causes behind the accidents.
People pointed to overloading, bad weather, human error, poor management of river routes and inland ports, lack of awareness among passengers and owners, lack of navigability, unauthorised ship-building and negligence in vessel maintenance as some of the reasons behind accidents on rivers, he said.
Accidents mainly occurred due to overloading, collision, inclement weather, fire and explosion, and bottom damage, he claimed.
Ariful said passenger vessel accidents were comparatively low considering overall river route accidents. March to May is a risky period for river routes, as most accidents occurred during this time. The month of May saw the most number of accidents.
He said the department has taken multiple measures to reduce accidents on the rivers.
“At present, we thoroughly check design of a ship during its building,” he added.
He said some three to four lakh people travel on the country's river routes each day. Of them, some 50,000 passengers travel from Dhaka alone.
This number increases four to five times during long weekends and other holidays, he said, adding that the country has five large terminals, six medium terminals, and 133 small launch terminals.
Prof Mir Tareque Ali, head of the department of Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering at Buet, said to reduce accidents on rivers, unauthorised vessels like speedboats should be brought under certain rules.
State Minister for Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said the ministry is working to ensure safety at launch terminals and enhance passenger services.
Chief Whip of the National Parliament Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury said an elaborate time-bound plan is required to turn the shipping sector into a profitable one.
Shipping Secretary Md Abdus Samad and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority Chairman Commodore Mahbub-ul-Islam, among others, spoke at the event.