Crackdown launched on unfit launches
The customary practice of clamping down on owners of unfit vessels following every major fatal accident commenced again yesterday.
The authorities will take action against owners of launches that do not have valid fitness certificates or registration or plying unfit vessels through the nexus between unscrupulous officials of BIWTA (Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority) posted at launch terminals.
Moreover, in a meeting with launch owners yesterday, the BIWTA informed the owners that no launch would be allowed to leave a terminal unless all valid documents including fitness certificates and registration documents are presented to the authorities before departure.
The latest steps came hard on the heels of the capsize of MV Shourav in the River Buriganga on Thursday. With one more body retrieved yesterday, the death toll of the launch disaster climbed to 47.
Speaking with The Daily Star yesterday, BIWTA Chairman Abdul Mannan Howlader said, "I've instructed my officials not to let any launch out of the terminals without proper documents."
Asked whether the instruction came following the launch capsize on Thursday, he said though the standing order remained in force, it is sometimes enforced in a slackened manner.
Till filing of this report yesterday evening, the authorities, however, could neither detect nor take action against any launch plying without valid documents.
Fearing a crackdown following the Thursday's launch accident, a large number of unauthorised launches that used to operate from Sadarghat Launch Terminal with the connivance of BIWTA traffic inspectors have gone into hiding, said sources at BIWTA.
Leaders and members of Bangladesh Launch Owners Association and Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passenger Carrier Association (BIWPCA) participated at yesterday's meeting held at the BIWTA office with the chairman of BIWTA in the chair.
The BIWTA chairman said he has reminded the launch owners about their responsibilities and asked them not to engage any untrained master to operate the vessels.
BIWPCA general secretary Siddiqur Rahman Patwari claimed that around 800 members of BIWPCA have proper documents for their vessels.
Means to avoid launch disaster during the upcoming nor'wester season was also discussed at the meeting, he added.
Officials at Directorate of Shipping said around 4,500 ships and launches have been detected to have proper documents. Over a thousand vessels do not have any registration and fitness documents, they added.
Water vessels having engines of 16 horsepower or above and having a length of 40 metres or above need to be surveyed by the shipping directorate only, said an official.
Meanwhile on Sunday, the BIWTA suspended two of its traffic inspectors -- Bashir Ali and Raihan -- posted at Sadarghat Launch Terminal as their negligence was primarily proved, BIWTA officials said.
Meanwhile, the five-member probe committee, led by Joint Secretary of shipping ministry Abdul Matin, formed to investigate the Thursday's launch capsize so far found that a sand-laden cargo vessel slammed into the launch, MV Shourav, two times and then ran over it, causing the launch to sink within a couple of minutes, said sources close to the probe committee.
The probe committee also found that after hitting MV Shourav, the master of the cargo vessel tried to flee the scene by speeding up and driving through the launch.
The sources said MV Shourav was being run with a temporary fitness certificate while the cargo vessel, MV Al Amin, did not have any fitness certificate or registration.
The owners and masters of cargo vessels did not appear before the probe committee to give their statements despite an order issued by the probe body, the sources said.
The inquiry committee is scheduled to submit its report on Thursday.