Holidaymakers from the southern region have started returning to their workplaces in Dhaka after spending Eid-ul-Adha with their families.
Every year after Eid, river ports in Barishal overflow with passengers during the holidays. However, this year, the ports are much less crowded, mostly due to the caution surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, passenger suffering is at a minimum, launch owners said.
On Monday, two days after the Eid, at least seven launches left Barishal for Dhaka. Although launches were a bit crowded, they did not overflow, this correspondent saw while visiting the ports.
Passengers said they found a lot of available space at the launch decks in the afternoon, something they could not imagine before. Md Alauddin, a Dhaka-bound passenger, said journeying on a spacious launch was a refreshing change.
Alongside decks, cabin tickets could be managed without much hassle as well. Abul Bashar, who had come to Barishal from Dhaka, said for the return journey, he managed to book a single cabin on the Sundarban-11 launch without any problem.
According to Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) sources, every year during Eid, at least 16-17 passenger launches transport around 60,000-70,000 people daily with double trips. This time around, the seven launches transported only around 20,000 passengers for Monday.
Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice-president of Launch Owners' Assocation, said launches are not getting expected number of passengers, and incurring losses as a result. On the other hand, Riazul Kabir, owner of the Surovi Passengers' Launch, said he expects the crowd to increase in the next three-four days.
"This time, the number of passengers is relatively low. Maritime security has not been hampered anywhere. In addition, the launches have also maintained social distancing guidelines," said Azmol Huda Mithu, joint director (port and transportation) at BIWTA.
However, upon inspection, this correspondent found that the launches were not fully complying with health guidelines necessary during the pandemic. They rarely facilitated social distancing and only one or two launches were checking passengers for temperature before boarding.