| Sep 26, 2014
Ferry owners have cleverly doubled the passenger-carrying capacity of their vessels at night. The rule is that there are to be fewer passengers at night than in the day. It has now been decided to keep the number of passengers same, day and night.
The ferry owners have long been making this demand to the shipping minister. On 14 September this demand was raised again at a meeting of the launch owners. The directorate of sea transport under the shipping ministry finally agreed to the owners’ demands and published a gazette in this regard, yesterday Thursday, 10 days before Eid. However, no changes have been made in the rules and regulations.
According to the regulations, each passenger is allocated a six sq ft space during the day and 12 sq ft during the night. This was determined in consideration of passenger safety. The rules fixed the carrying capacity of the vessels based on whether it was day, night or evening. The deck and cabinet capacities are also laid down in the regulations.
The new notice states that the daytime capacity as stated in the vessel’s survey certificate is to be taken as the vessel’s maximum passenger carrying capacity. As for the vessels which do not have this capacity mentioned on their certificates, a survey will be carried out to determine their daytime capacity.
An official of the directorate says that there are 586 launches in the country. About half of these ply at night. Most of the accidents take place at night due to inclement weather. As it is a long journey, the passengers rest at night, for which more space is allocated then. Now if the space allocation is the same for night and day, the risk factor increases. Passenger safety is compromised and their comfort is curtailed.
Shipping minister Shahjahan Khan tells Prothom Alo that the number of passengers will be determined in accordance to the regulations and the launch capacity. From now on the launches will carry as many passengers at night as these carry during the day. “So what if they don’t lie down at night?” he says.
Commodore M Zakir Rahman Bhuiyan, director general of the sea transport directorate, tells Prothom Alo that this decision has been taken to ensure the launch owners’ earnings.
Mozammel Huq Chowdhury, secretary general of the Passenger Welfare Association, says with the carrying capacity of the vessels being raised, the passengers’ risk has increased and safety decreased. Now during Eid the launch owners will take as many passengers as they want at night, even during bad weather. This will increase the chance of accidents.