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Riverine journey should be safe

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08th-Apr-2018       
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THE Maritime Safety Week-2018 is being observed in the country to raise awareness among people on maritime laws and shipping related safety measures. The theme of this year's Maritime Safety Week is "Modernization begins in shipping industry - we seek journeys to be safe". The Ministry of Shipping will conduct several awareness programmes till April 11 in observing the week. But we doubt whether this week would be able to create enough awareness among the stakeholders to prevent fatal riverine accidents.
Despite introducing of several modern equipment and plying of up-to-date vessels, the probability of riverine accidents is not yet reduced. Recently, goods and sand carrying boats have appeared as a big threat for the passenger vessels. Although the authorities have imposed a ban on plying of sand carrying vessels in the night, the directive is seldom obeyed.  A section of boat owners and sand traders in connivance with the corrupt officials of shipping sector have formed a strong syndicate, which apparently rules the riverine transportation.  Under the direct patronisation of this syndicate, a number of goods and sand carrying boats are now plying on the Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Meghna and other rivers defying government order. The collisions with sand carrying boats were mainly responsible for the accidents those have been occurred in the recent days.
Most of the sand carrying boats are old and operated by unskilled masters. These vessels also have not any lighting system to trace passenger carrying launches in the dark. For that reason, these boats often collide with other vessels due to poor sight. About 81 passengers of a launch died when it sank being hit by a sand carrying boat in 2015.        
There are more problems. Most of the sand and goods carrying boats launches have no registration and fitness certificate. The condition is almost same for passenger launches also. The number of inspectors to supervise the vessels is only seven.  So, it is impossible for them to check a huge number of riverine vessels. Besides, the number of skilled masters to operate the vessels is comparatively fewer, which is another big reason for accident.
The summer is coming nearer. The nation will celebrate the Pahela Baishakh on April 14. But we have to remember that, it is also a season of cyclone and disaster. Most of the riverine accidents take place especially in this season. Not last but the least, there will be two big religious festivals of Muslims - Eid-ul Fitr and Eid-ul Azha in the coming months.
We hope, the Shipping Ministry will take appropriate steps to prevent accidents and reduce other hassles keeping the matter under active consideration. 

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