Far too many unfit vessels causes worry
Similar to our roads, accidents and disasters in our waters have increased in recent times. Since 1977, there were 248 motor launch accidents recorded by BIWTC (Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation) with a loss of 2,309 lives, 374 persons injured and 208 persons missing. The unofficial number is much higher. The point, however, too many vessels plying over our waterways are mechanically unfit.
Most of the ships and ferries under the BIWTC are being operated without any fitness certificates. The ferries, inland passenger ships, waterbuses and coastal sea trucks of BIWTC are worn-out, outdated, and therefore, risky. More dangerously, cracks have been developed in the bottom parts of most of the vehicles.
If BIWTC can allow plying of risky and unfit vessels, it must also shoulder the responsibility in case if any of these vessels face disastrous consequences. Is the BIWTC short of funds? Despite possessing 184 vessels in its gigantic fleet, the need of the minute is to immediately focus on regular and proper maintenance of its vessels. Also older and riskier ships and vessels should be replaced by new ones.
BIWTC is a public organisation and besides funding from the government exchequer, it also generates its respective revenue. How could the steamers that were introduced a century ago and should well be considered antiques, still ply over our waters?
To have an answer to this question, it is now urgent to make an investigation into how the BIWTC is functioning and bring out a satisfactory answer why most of its 184 vessels in its active fleet do not have fitness certificates. If this is not done, the modernizing programme of the BIWTC fleet cannot be successfully launched.
The BIWTC is a very important organisation of the government as it controls the waterways of the country. A great number of people in Bangladesh still depend on water vessels for their journey and that is why it is very important to ensure the vessels that ply our waterways are all fit to ensure safety.
Last of all, with the Ramadan less than a month away, maintenance and inspection works for ensuring fitness of BIWTC vessels should kickoff right away. The old vessels are often overused for carrying Eid holidaymakers with makeshift repairing works, this should stop. These temporary eye-wash attempts to make old ships looking new do not last long. Most importantly, BIWTA must ensure all ships and vessels are fit and equipped with appropriate life saving safety measures.