Mamunur Rashid: Investigators said Pinak- 6, the passenger launch that sank in the River Padma on Monday, was operating ‘illegally’ without proper approval of its design. The ill-fated launch had no stability booklet and there was no life jacket or any other life saving gears onboard. However, the owner of Pinak-6 was able to manage a certificate of fitness from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
Pinak-6 also violated a ban on launches less than 24 metres long from sailing when there was a cautionary signal number 3 for rivers. The Met Office on Monday hoisted cautionary signal 3 for the River Padma when Pinak-6 capsized.
The ill-fated launch, with an allotted capacity of carrying no more than 100 passengers, was operating on a temporary conditional permission from the authorities, said Fakhrul Islam, Chief Engineer of the Department of Shipping.
The conditional or casual permit was given after the management of the Pinak-6 had applied for an operation permit, officially known as ‘survey certificate,’ in April, but the decision on the permit was still pending.
The 19.5-metre-long launch also did not have any valid certificate from the Shipping Department to operate on the Mawa-Kewrakandi route in the River Padma.
Fakhrul said one of the conditions for the temporary permission of the launch was that it was allowed to carry a maximum of 85 passengers at a time.
Asked how the launch was allowed to exceed its permitted passenger limit, Fakhrul said traffic inspectors at the launch terminal were responsible for checking whether the launch was overloaded.
Investigators always have blamed overloading, unsafe vessels and poor navigational facilities for many of the accidents. The Ministry of Shipping ordered an investigation into the latest tragedy, asking for report within 10 days.
Investigators also suggested that the accidents occurred due to overloading of passengers and goods, technical faults, lack of adequate light and carelessness of incompetent masters.
Gross negligence and weak monitoring in the water transport sector were again exposed on Monday when the Pinak-6 went down in the turbulent waters of the River Padma, claiming at least 10 lives with hundreds more still missing.
Although the government had claimed taking massive preparations to ensure safe journey on the waterways in a well-publicised move during Eid rush, the BIWTA – for the first time ever – deployed helicopters to monitor launch traffic on the country’s waterways.
Meanwhile, Zakiur Rahman Bhuiyan, Director General of the Department of Shipping, told reporters that they were mainly responsible for providing fitness certificates to launches.
The Shipping Department has nothing to do regarding the issue as the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) mainly coordinated the checking of vessels, Zakiur said. Even though the department often conducted mobile court drives, it had now become difficult to do so because of manpower shortage, the DG added.
Besides, minor launch accidents have become a common feature, local people said.
Pinak-6 have no stability booklet : Vessel stability is a fundamental component of seaworthiness so it is in the interest of all owners/operators to learn about this topic and ensure that their vessel possesses a satisfactory level of stability in order to ensure its safety as well as that of the people on board.
A vessel’s stability is the measure of its ability to withstand high winds, waves and other forces resulting from its operations (lifting, trawling, towing, etc.) and resist capsizing by returning to an upright position after being heeled over. Naval architects can determine the stability of a vessel from the lines plan 1 and the results of an inclining experiment 2.
This is documented in a stability booklet which gives the master an idea of how the vessel will respond under various loading conditions. For smaller vessels and vessels operating in protected waters, simplified methods for assessing stability are available.
However, the extravagant move turned out to be not enough to mend the faults in the existing system or to prevent the loss of lives.