The civil probe committee formed in the fire incident in Abhijan-10 while on the way to Barguna from Dhaka on 23 December has found evidence of negligence against 12 persons, including four officials of the Department of Shipping and Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), four owners and fitness testing surveyor of the launch.
The 19-member probe committee comprising members of 16 social organisations, including Poribesh Bachao Andolon (Poba), Safe Waterways Implementation Movement, National Committee to Protect Shipping, Roads and Railways, Sundarbans and Coastal Protection Movement, etc, presented the report at a press conference at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity in the capital on Saturday.
The report said Abhijan-10 was out of operation for three months since 26 October 2021. Despite a long halt due to mechanical faults, the matter was not investigated by the BIWTA's Marine Safety and Traffic Management and the Department of Shipping.
Thus, BIWTA's acting joint director in charge of maritime safety has neglected his duties by allowing the vessel to leave the Sadarghat terminal on 23 December.
The owner replaced the malfunctioning engine with two old engines without the approval of the Department of Shipping. Moreover, the certified engine driver was not present on the launch that day.
Besides, the BIWTA transport inspector on duty at Sadarghat has shown irresponsibility by accepting the mentioned voice declaration of only 310 people despite carrying more than 800 passengers on the launch which has the capacity of 420 people.
The persons made responsible in the report are Md Mahbubur Rashid, Engineer and Ship Surveyor of Dhaka (Sadarghat) Office and Md Habibur Rahman, Inspector, the Department of Shipping; Joynal Abedin, Joint Director and Dinesh Das, Inspector, Department of Maritime Safety and Traffic, BIWTA; four owners of the launch Md Hamzalal Sheikh, Md Shamim Ahmed, Md Russell Ahmed and Ferdous Hasan Rabbi; first-class master Md Riaz Sikder and second class master Md Khalilur Rahman and first-class driver Md Masum Billah and second class driver Abul Kalam.
The report made 25 recommendations to prevent maritime accidents which include bringing all persons, not only the owner, master and driver, responsible for the accident under trial, collecting compensation for victims from the people responsible, installing CCTV in the engine room and other important places, and monitoring fire safety in the currently operating launches, etc.
Convener of the probe committee and Poba chairman Abu Naser Khan presided over the programme conducted by Aminur Rasul Babul, member secretary of the committee and member secretary of the movement for safe waterways implementation.
Ashish Kumar Dey, chief coordinator of the committee and general secretary of the National Committee for the Protection of Shipping, Roads and Railways, presented the investigation report.