Saturday, 4 December, 2021

Launch services suspended: Thousands left stranded in Barishal

Thousands of passengers were left stranded as launch services on all routes were suspended from Barishal, in protest against the diesel price hike.

Many disgruntled passengers were seen returning from Barishal river port Saturday evening, having waited all day for a break.

Although six launches were supposed to leave Barishal for Dhaka, none did.

Three long-distance launches were removed from the wharf; the other vessels remained anchored.

However, some passengers at the port boarded the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority's passenger ship MV Madhumati, Pubali 7 from Tuskhali and Farhan from Jhalokathi, hoping to reach Dhaka.

Nizam Uddin, managing director of Nizam Shipping, said the hike in diesel price by Tk15 per litre has increased the cost of operating launches on the Barishal-Dhaka route from Tk60,000 to Tk1.5 lakh per trip. "So it is impossible to run the vessels without increasing fare."

"The increase in the price of fuel oil has led to an increase in the cost of fuel by Tk1 lakh per launch. Under special considerations, passengers were transported with the existing fare for one day. However, this is no longer feasible for us," said Saidur Rahman Rintu, vice-president of the Bangladesh Launch Owners Association.

Amid the ongoing nationwide transport strike against fuel price hike, launch owners in Bangladesh suspended all their services Saturday, demanding that the launch fares be doubled.

On Friday, Bangladesh Launch Owners Association held a meeting and sent a letter to the government for doubling fares over existing ones.

The government set the fares for launch passengers at Tk1.70 per kilometre in 2014, the letter said. "In the last few years, the prices of steel and fuels have increased several times, but the launch fares remained the same. The association has long been demanding that the fares be raised."

The hike in the diesel price has forced the association to demand doubling the launch fare, fixing it at Tk3.40 per kilometre, the letter said.

In a shock move that no one saw coming, the government raised the prices of diesel and kerosene to Tk80 from Tk65 at the retail level, which has forced the association to demand the government double the launch fare and fix it at Tk3.40 per kilometre, it added.