After the fuel prices in the country were hiked drastically on Saturday, launch owners have reduced the number of launches plying on almost all routes by half.
Following the construction of the Padma Bridge, the number of passengers travelling via launch decreased substantially yet the service had continued while incurring losses.
With the latest blow of fuel price hike the losses have now turned unbearable, as a result of which, many launch owners have decided to strand thier launches at the terminal rather than making usual trips.
Every day at least eight to ten launches leave Dhaka Sadarghat for Barishal. But due to an increase in fuel prices, the number has come down to four today.
"We were already bearing losses. Every day we are facing a loss of at least Tk1-1.5 lakh. This loss will reach Tk3-4 lakh with the hiked prices of fuel", said Shahidul Islam, owner of Parabot launch.
"Launches bound for Barishal require between 6,500 and 8,000 litres of diesel per trip. Due to an increase of Tk34 per litre of diesel, we have to pay an additional Tk2 lakh to Tk2.75 lakh. Already, our passenger numbers are very low. There is no income, but the expenses have increased", added Shahidul, also general secretary of Bangladesh Inland Waterways Passengers Carrier Association (BIWPCA).
"That's why only four launches will leave from Sadarghat for Barishal today. The rest have been halted by the owners. They don't want to pay such a loss," he added.
In response to the question whether the fare will be increased to cover the loss, he said, "We are not getting any passengers. At this moment even increasing the fare will not be of use."
Reportedly, the number of launches was also decreased on other routes.
Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority BIWTA Joint Director Shahid Ullah said, several launches have not left Sadarghat since morning.
"As per our sources, there were no passengers due to rain in the morning," he said adding, "But we also think that launches did not leave the terminal because of the rise in oil prices. But the exact reason cannot be determined yet."
From Saturday morning, speed boats on Cox's Bazar-Maheshkhali sea route have started collecting additional Tk55 per passenger. Whereas the price of diesel has increased by Tk34 per litre.
Sheikh Kamal, chairman of Maheshkhali's Kutubjum Union, said that charging an additional fare of Tk55 is extremely inhumane. Maximum 5 litres of diesel is used for speed boat travel from Cox's Bazar to Maheshkhali.
If the fuel price is increased by Tk34 per litre, the additional cost will be Tk170 taka. If 11 passengers are transported on a speedboat and if they are charged Tk55 extra, the extra charge will accumulate to Tk605, added Sheikh Kamal.
The fare may be increased by a maximum of Tk20 due to the increase in diesel price, said the chairman.