Hastily repairing old and ill-equipped vessels and giving a facelift likely to increase risk of accidents during the Eid rush, say officials

With less than two weeks left for the Eid-ul-Fitr festivity, rundown and faulty launches are being refurbished and repaired to sail on river routes across the country during the huge rush of holidaymakers, endangering hundreds of lives.

At least 30 defective launches are getting a quick facelift with cosmetic repairs at various dockyards in Keraniganj on the outskirts of the city, aiming to make a fast buck by carrying passengers of 22 southern districts during the Eid festival.

Experts said the condition of most of the rivers before the Eid may become risky with the possibility of nor’westers, strong currents and gusty winds due to the influence new moon as the passenger launch accidents in Bangladesh’s inland waterways happen at this time mainly for overloading of passengers, faulty vessels, risky competition, mismanagement and lack of trained, skilled and competent crews.

They said the government must take strict measures to check the operation of unfit and faulty vessels, overloading and ensure adequate fire safety and lifesaving equipment in each launch to avoid any untoward incident during the mad rush of passengers at launch terminals ahead of the Eid.

Meanwhile, the National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways (NCPSRR) in a report on Tuesday said the Sadarghat terminal will witness an unusual pressure as 40 lakh people from three districts–Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj–are likely to travel to the coastal districts by launches during this eid occasion.

It also said there are not enough vessels to carry so many one-way passengers in just 12 days, cautioning that the launches can carry passengers beyond their capacity on decks and roofs during the season of natural disasters like nor’westers and storms.

Visiting various dockyards in Keraniganj on the outskirts of the city, UNB correspondents found over 30 launches undergoing facelifts.

It was seen that repair works were going on various launches, including Adventure-1, MV Prince Awlad-5, MV Jamal-9, From MV Farhan-2, Bogdadia-7, Bogdadia-9, Mayur-2, Kajal-7, Parabat-9, Parabat-10, Parabat-11, MV Rajhangsa-7, Glory of Srinagar and MV Lamia.

Abdul Karim, a worker of a dockyard, said many launch owners started bringing their vessels to the dockyards for refurbishment and repairing even before Ramadan hoping they will get adequate passengers during this Eid unlike the last two years as the Covid-19 situation is now normal.

He said every dockyard is now going through a busy time by overhauling and painting the old and faulty vessels.

Karim, however, said the owners only want to carry out small and cosmetic repairing and good painting of their launches so that they can operate those during the occasion even if it means taking risks with some problems.

Barisal-bound three-storey run-down launch MV Prince Awlad was seen overhauling at Lucky Dockyard. Some workers were working on the inside floors of the vessel while others were busy applying a new coat of paint to the launch.