Over 250 unlicensed boats ferry people in southOur Correspondent . Barisal
Over 250 trawlers and speedboats are carrying passengers illegally from Barisal to different river routes, posing threat to the life of hundreds of passengers every day.
Devoid of any registration, fitness certificates and route permits, the owners of these boats are running a happy business thanks to the overlooking of the matter by the authorities concerned.
Barisal Launch Owners’ Association leaders brought the allegation and said they were facing loss as these ‘unapproved’ vessels were taking away a large percentage of their passengers.
They also held responsible for the situation a corrupt section of officials of Barisal Port, river safety and river traffic management office, River Traffic Police and Barisal Port police.
Syedur Rahman Rintu, vice president of the association, said these boats did not comply with the features the country’s laws made mandatory for boats meant for carrying passengers on routes enlisted in the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority.
According to the inland transport laws, two types of vessels are permitted to carry passengers in the BIWTA routes — motor launches, having up to 65 feet length, and motor vessels, which are over 65 feet in length. Both vessels must have their designs and structures approved by the Department of Shipping.
The DoS is also the authority to issue certificates to the masters, engine drivers and shukani, the chief assistant, without which they cannot be hired by a registered vessel or launch.
‘Not only they do not have legal documents, most of these boats are piloted by underage young men who do not have any formal training,’ Rintu said.
As for the speedboat, more than 50 of which are used to commercially carry passengers from the city, the BIWTA officials have said the present laws do not at all mention it as commercial passenger carrier on the enlisted river routes. Presently the speedboats pick passengers from Barisal DC Ghat and Laharhat Ghat moorings.
Owners of the unapproved passenger carriers have said they pick people from a number of moorings around Barisal Port — namely, Kalibabur Ghat, Chandmari Ghat, Beltala, Taltali, Charmonai Ghat, Charkawa Ghat and others — to take them to over 30 destinations, more than 20 of which are BIWTA routes.
Among the enlisted routes they ply are Charmonai, Jangalia, Chandramohan, Dhulia, Baherchar, Saheber Hat, Mehendiganj, Vashan Char, Nalchity, Char Biswas, Char Kalmi, Kawkhali, Bhola, Lalmohan, Charfession, Maju Chowdhurir Hat, Kalaiya, Baufal, Boga, Kalisuri and Goma — all under Barisal division.
Abdul Gani and Abdur Rashid, owners of several such trawlers and speedboats, while admitted to not complying with legal conditions in this regard, claimed they were giving complimentary support to passengers through their services.
‘We are giving a vital service to the people for which the authorities should legalise us,’ Abdul Gani demanded.
BIWTA river traffic inspector Lokman Hossain and river safety and traffic management assistant director Masud Parvez also admitted the situation and said they informed the Barisal Port police to take action.
Barisal Port police officer in charge Firoz Ahmed said inadequate laws held them back from taking action against the unapproved vessels carrying passengers.
‘Nevertheless, the trawlers and the speedboats are quite popular with the people as the licensed ones often run behind schedules for fog, lack of navigability and other problems,’ he said.
Syedur Rahman Rintu said plying of the illegal boats heavily affected their income.
‘With the increase of road communication we are already facing a decrease in earnings. Now with so many competing boats — which don’t care for registration, fitness or whatsoever — we are losing 40 per cent of our passengers,’ he said demanding the authorities should act right away.
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