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Bangladesh - January 21, 2024

Most of BIWTC ferries not fit

Most of the ferries are more than 35 years old

Mahfuja Mukul : People of South and West Bengal easily use Daulatdia and Paturia sea route to travel to different places including Dhaka. Thousands of vehicles and passengers pass through this waterway every day. There was a lot of pressure here before. After the Padma Setu was opened, even though it is not there, still people of some districts of the South-Western region use this route to easily enter the capital. However, most of the ferries plying this route are unfit and old. Due to which various types of marine accidents are happening constantly.
Meanwhile, the fog lights, which were installed at a cost of five crore rupees for ferry movement in the fog, are also broken. Due to these reasons, many accidents often occur on Daulatdia-Paturia waterway.
Last Wednesday morning, the small utility ferry Rajnigandhar, which was stuck in the fog, burst its bottom and sank with 9 trucks near ferry no. 5 of Paturia in Manikganj. Truck drivers and helpers on the ferry alleged that the Rajnigandha ferry that sank was also unfit.
Earlier, on October 27, 2021, a ferry named ‘Amanat Shah’ with 17 vehicles left Daulatdia for Paturia and sank near ferry no. 5 pier of Paturia in Manikganj. That ferry was also unfit. The ferry was about 41 years old. Last docking repair of Amanat Shah Ferry was done in 2012. Since then, no full docking has been done. Besides, the ferry did not have any survey certificate. As a result, the ferry was unnavigable.
It is known that most of the ferries on the Daulatdia-Paturia route are more than 35 years old.
Rajnigandha was more than 47 years old. Ro Ro Ferry ‘Khan Jahan Ali’ was built in 1987. Another roro ferry ‘Keramat Ali’ is 36 years old. ‘Bir Shrestha Jahangir’ ferry was built in 1992.
According to a BIWTC source, out of 53 ferries under BIWTC, 47 do not have charters. Most of these ferries are more than 40 years old. Also, 14 out of 18 ro ro ferries (large ferries) do not have fitness certificate. Most ferries also lack the required safety equipment. Many ferries are over 40 years old. According to the law, the Bangladesh Directorate of Shipping does not issue fitness certificates for ships over 40 years old. Even after that ferry service is running. Due to which accidents occur.
Sources from the Aricha office of BIWTC informed that in 2016, high power fog lights were installed in 10 ferries at a cost of Tk 5 crore. It costs more than Tk 50 lakh to buy each 7 thousand kilowatt light. They were said to be made in the United States. But after a few days, most of the lights are destroyed. Fog and search on ‘Khan Jahan Ali’, ‘Shah Ali’, ‘Keramat Ali’, ‘Bhasa Shaheed Barkat’, ‘Kapoti’, ‘Bir Shresh Ruhul Amin’, ‘Bir Shresh Jahangir’, ‘Shah Amanat’ and ‘Shah Paran’ ferries. Lights are installed. 16 small and big ferries operate on Daulatdia-Paturia route. 17 to 18 hundred vehicles cross in these ferries. But due to the fog, ferry service is stopped for 3 to 9 hours every day.
Some ferry operators said that the age of each ferry is between 35 and 40 years. Due to the navigability crisis, the ferry is closed for 6 to 9 hours every day due to fog. The fog light was installed but it did not work. The ghat authorities stop the ferry when the river becomes unclear. However, because of this fog at the expense of crores of rupees, high power fog lights were installed on the ferry which is of no use.
On the day of the accident, the rider of Rajnigandha was truck driver Ashiq. He said that the ferry did not collide with any boat. Water entered through the floor and the ferry sank with 9 trucks. The ferry was very old and unfit. Also due to the negligence of the ferry authorities the Rajnigandha ferry sank.
Majnu, another truck driver who witnessed the sinking of the Rajnigandha ferry, said that after leaving Daulatdia at night, the ferry was anchored in the middle of the river due to fog. Later, at around 4:30 in the morning, water started rising in the ferry. At that time, the people of the ferry tried to drain the water, but slowly one side of the ferry began to tilt and sink. At one point around 8:30 in the morning, the ferry sank into the water with all the cargo trucks. At this time, we jumped into the river and swam to the shore to save our lives. No bulkhead collided with the ferry.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation has denied the complaint of overdue ferries. BIWTC’s Aricha Office Deputy General Manager (DGM) Shah Mohammad Khaled Newaz said that there are no expired ferries on this waterway. Feri Rajnigandha’s papers were all right, fitness was there, survey was there. Many said there was no fitness. They said not knowing it. Daulatdia-Paturia route has 9 ro ro ferries, 3 utility ferries, 1 k type ferry and 3 small ferries. All ferries have proper fitness documents.
Did the ferry sink due to the impact of the bulkhead? In response, he said, many people have spoken a lot. No one was there. These are being discussed in terms of different words. As the investigation is now going on through the inquiry committee, we will know the real reason. Many said there was a loud noise, a trawler or bulkhead and sank. These were the words of people immediately present or nearby or local. I was also not on the spot when the incident happened. Based on the words of local people and fishermen, it was believed to have hit something and drowned. The investigation report will actually reveal the root cause.
Deputy Director of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA). Shahjahan said three vehicles have been recovered so far. A rescue ship has arrived at the scene. Rescue vessels Hamza, Rustom and Pratyam are trying to rescue the ferry.
Mustafa Kamal, the senior secretary of the Ministry of Shipping, said that ferry docking should be done once in five years. Rajnigandhar docked in 2021. And the minister talked about fog lights, I will not say anything. And after the report of the investigation committee, the cause of the ferry sinking can be said.
Chairman of BIWTC came to visit the scene. A. K. M Matiur Rahman said that the fitness of the ferry and the cause of the accident will be investigated.
Meanwhile, Humayun Kabir, the second master (driver) of Rajnigandha, has not been found so far. Humayun Kabir’s house is in Pirojpur. He is the President of South (Paturia-Daulatdia) Branch of Aricha Regional Committee of BIWTC Workers Union.

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