Survey token issued to totally unfit launch
A probe committee formed to investigate the launch disaster of February 28 in the Buriganga found that the launch had capacity to carry only 67 people but had seats for 150.
The five-member probe committee in its report submitted to the government yesterday also said they found huge irregularities on the part of the surveyor as the official gave survey certificate to the launch MV Shourav-1 without surveying it.
"The irregularities are so horrifying… a surveyor issued the survey token for the launch from Barisal when it was plying on Dhaka-Taltola [Munshiganj] route," said one of the members of the probe committee seeking anonymity. As per rule, a surveyor must visit and survey a launch before issuing a survey token.
"Even though the launch had not fulfilled the minimum fitness requirements, the surveyor gave it the survey token, meaning the vessel is fit," the member said.
The launch was illegally plying the Sadarghat-Taltola route since June last year. It sailed with passengers more than double its capacity from Sadarghat on the day of the accident that left 48 dead.
Before sailing, every launch must get clearance from Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) traffic inspectors that it is carrying passengers and goods according to its capacity. Sources at the Sadarghat Launch Terminal said the BIWTA traffic inspectors often give clearance to launches carrying double or more its capacity in exchange for a hefty bribe.
The findings suggest how a section of the BIWTA officials and surveyors of the Department of Shipping (DOS) indulge in corruption.
The probe committee, however, found the sand-laden vessel that struck MV Shourav-1 in the stern has almost all its documents in order. The surveyor of that vessel gave the survey token despite it being 2.3 metres longer than it was supposed to be.
The report said after the sand-laden vessel hit the launch in the stern both the vessels tried to stay starboard causing another collision and the cargo vessel finally ran over the sinking launch.
"Such accidents suggest that masters of both the vessels had serious deficiency in vessel manoeuvre training," the report mentioned.
The probe committee headed by joint secretary of the Ministry of Shipping recommended a permanent accident investigation cell.
As recommendations made by different probe committees formed after launch disasters are yet to be implemented, the latest probe committee suggested that the proposed permanent accident investigation cell would take up the task to implement the recommendations.
The committee also suggested creation of posts and recruitment of marine police as there is no authority at present to oversee river traffic rules in the waterways.