Probe panel fails to meet in 2 weeks

pinakDWaterway tragedies sink in oblivion
A committee tasked to recommend ways of ensuring launch passengers’ safety failed to start work even after a fortnight of its formation, sources said, in a repeat of how grim waterway tragedies sink into oblivion.

A launch, MV Pinak-6, sank in the river Padma at Mawa in Munshiganj with more than 200 passengers aboard last month, leaving many of them dead or missing forever.

The mishap shocked all and led the government, launch owners and other stakeholders to work for ensuring passenger safety-a prime need that goes overlooked for a shared irresponsibility.

The government and the launch owners in a meeting on August 31 drafted some recommendations for passenger and river-route safety following the latest recurrence of fatal ferry accident.

To consider the recommendations the Ministry of Shipping (MoS) formed a nine-member committee headed by Nur- Ur- Rahman, a joint secretary of the ministry.

The other members of the committee are Fakrul Islam, the chief engineer of the Department of Shipping, Rabiul Islam, joint secretary of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), and 4 others from the launch owners and two from the labour organisations.

But the names for the committee from the owners’ side and the labour organisations are yet to reach the MoS, resulting in the ‘unwanted delay’ in starting the work, according to the ministry sources.

The panel was to submit reports as early as possible to the government for taking final decisions for implementing the recommendations.

Around 40 per cent of launch accidents take place because of human error, 20 per cent for cyclonic storms and tornado, 20 per cent for overloading and rule breaking by launch owners, 10 per cent for faulty design and drawing of water vessels, 5 per cent for rough channel conditions, 3 per cent for wrong guidance by BIWTA pilots and 2 per cent for a lack of proper route markings by the BIWTA.

The head of committee said they could not start work as they were yet to get other members’ names for the committee.

“We have yet to start our work. We will sit with the stakeholders soon,” Md Nur-Ur-Rahman, the committee chief, told the FE.

Asked when they (committee) will sit for scrutiny of the recommendations, he said, “We will start work from next week.”

The recommendations that are expected to be finalised by the committee include not to allow launch plying without fitness certificate, carry passengers beyond capacity and expansion of river-port terminals, ensuring passenger ticket for traveling and not to allow setting up railings and stairs on launches to prevent passengers moving on to the rooftop.

The other recommendations have it that from now on newly built launches must have a system that will prevent passengers from entering one launch to others at the terminal.

Also, small-sized launches must have fitness certificates for plying the river routes.

Talha Bin Habib

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