Owners incurring huge loss
Mohsin Mia Liton, Barishal: The traditional launch service of the southern region with the capital can be stopped at any moment. The people of Barisal region have traveled to the capital for more than 200 years relying on this service. The sample of the ringing of his farewell bell has already been found. The luxury launch MV Kirtankhola-1 on the Dhaka-Barisal route is being cut and sold as scrap as, it is unable to cope with continuous losses. Initially, the owner tried to sell the entire launch.
No one agreed to buy because there was no business. In the end, it is being sold at iron prices. Not only Kirtankholai, but at least seven other launches plying on different routes in the southern region are being cut and sold in this way by the owners. Several launch owners said, ‘There is no other way. The number of launches that are running are also loss making. If there is a loss of one and a half to two lakh taka every round trip, how long will the owner last?’
Many feared that the launch journey would slow down when the Padma Bridge was opened. But no one may have understood that the fear will be so dire. From the day the bridge was opened, 50 percent of the passengers lost the launch. However, somehow it was trying to survive. But even in that effort, the increase in the price of fuel became a blow.
RezinUl Kabir, director of Surabhi Navigation, which operates on the Dhaka-Barisal route, said, “Before the increase in oil prices, we used to spend Tk 620,000 on each round trip. After the price increase, it went to Tk 860,000. After the launch of Padma Bridge, we survived despite the decrease in passengers. The level of losses was not very high. A loss on one trip would be recouped on another trip. But after the rise in oil prices, I see darkness in my eyes. The rent is lower than the government rate.
FBCCI director Nizamuddin, the owner of Adventure Launch said, “Each launch has an average of about 400 cabins. The capacity of each launch is approximately one thousand passengers. Due to the passenger crisis, the rotation system has started from Saturday. 18 launches have permission to ply Dhaka-Barisal route. We are running a total of six launches, three each from both ends.
I thought this would solve the crisis to some extent. But it didn’t happen. Only 1,600 passengers arrived in three launches from Barisal on Sunday. But the capacity of these three launches is three and a half thousand. More than half of the cabins were empty on all launches. The same was the case with the launches from Dhaka to Barisal. If this situation continues then the launch cannot be carried out. If you have to pay a loss of two to three lakhs per round trip, then you have to sell the land and house.
ManjurulAlam Ferdous, the owner of Kirtankhola-2 launch said, “According to the current market rate, the price of Kirtankhola-1 launch is Tk 20 to 22 crore. Although I sold it to another owner a few years ago. He is now cutting it and selling it. What could be sadder than that? If he cut it and sold it at iron price, he might get Tk 5-6 crore. When people break his house? When there is no other way.
The launch operates on 38 routes in the southern region with the capital Dhaka. At least 200 launches run on these routes. After the launch of Padma Bridge, passenger shortage is going on in other routes except the Bhola region routes. Many routes including Gournadi, Shariatpur, Naria have stopped launching. Now the seven-eight launches that the owners are cutting and selling at iron prices, all of them are from these routes. In this case, there is no use in blaming anyone.After the opening of Padma Bridge, there was a revolution in road communication. It takes only 3 hours by road from Barisal to Dhaka. Other destinations in the southern region are also being reached by road 3 to 4 hours earlier than before. As a result, no one wants to get on the launch anymore. On the one hand, the owners are selling the launch at iron prices; Similarly, many launches have been put in service to avoid losses. Someday they may have to be cut and sold.
Saidur Rahman Rintu, owner of Sundarban Navigation and senior vice president of the Central Launch Owners Association said, “Maybe there will be two-three launches.” It’s like not even there. I don’t see any other way. Most importantly, if this sector is closed, thousands of people will be unemployed. There are 25-30 workers in each launch. Along with the people working at the wharf.
Those involved in the launch construction industry will also lose jobs. Think about the owners. Each launch has been made at a cost of Tk 20-25 crore. Thousands of crores of taka are invested in this industry. What is the future of this investment? Every launch owner has a bank loan. Regular installments are to be paid.
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