There has been a shortage of pontoon at Barishal launch terminal for a long time, causing sufferings to passengers in boarding vessels.
The situation worsens during Eid rush when passengers, in many cases, fall in water while getting on and off launches.
All Dhaka-bound launches cannot anchor to pontoon due to small space, according to sources at Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
Many are forced to anchor behind other vessels. As a result, passengers have to go through a docked launch to get on their desired ones. In such cases, they have to jump from one launch to another, putting themselves at risk of falling into the river.
Sometimes, passengers do not find their launches as those are very far from the berthing point.
Such a situation is very common during Eid when many passengers are in a hurry amid rush, said Shahin Hossain, a labourer at the terminal, adding that they often get injured. Women, children and aged persons are the worst sufferers, he added.
Sabiha Sultana failed to board launch two weeks ago. “I along with my little son was not able to get on my desired vessel from another one. Eventually, I missed it,” she said.
“The authorities seem to be silent although there is a possibility of fatal accidents,” said Sadia Akter, a student of a private university in Dhaka who travels during Eid.
From overcrowded pontoons, passengers are often seen using small boats to get onto their vessels.
An elderly man died during last Eid while he was trying to squeeze a huge crowd, according to police.
All 26 luxury vessels plying Dhaka-Barishal route have to anchor at the launch terminal, according to BIWTA in Barishal.
Sometimes, those have to wait for a long time to get space to be docked at pontoon, said BIWTA officials.
Only six pontoons -- three for local and three for Dhaka-Barishal routes -- have been set up at the terminal, said Jahangir Alom, driver of a launch, adding that at least 10 such berthing points are needed.
Twenty to twenty-five vessels are leaving for Dhaka and returning with thousands of passengers during this Eid rush, said BIWTA officials.
“The number of vessels are increasing every year but pontoons are not,” said Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice president of Bangladesh Passenger Launch Owners’ Association.
Azmol Huda, deputy director of BIWTA (port), Barishal, said, “Higher authorities were informed about the pontoon shortage. A shipping ministry project financed by the World Bank is being mulled to enlarge the terminal and increase the number of pontoons.”
The official, however, could not give further details about the project.