No effort to salvage sunken vessel from river in Sundarbans in 15 days

Authorities are yet to start salvage operations to pull out the sunken coal-laden vessel from a river in the Sundarbans even 15 days after it capsized.

Bagerhat CorrespondentAlip Ghatak,bdnews24.com
Published : 4 April 2016, 06:01 AM
Updated : 4 April 2016, 10:20 AM

Forest Department officials say they are in touch with the vessel owner and that the effort to retrieve it will start ‘soon.’ But they have not specified when the operation will begin.

On the afternoon of Mar 19, the vessel ‘Sea Horse-1’ carrying 1,235 tonnes of coals sank in the Shela River after its bottom was ruptured.

In December 2014, an oil-tanker sank in the same river, spilling 357,664 litres of furnace oil it was carrying.

The massive oil spill had put the biodiversity and ecology of the Sundarbans, the world's biggest mangrove forest and -- and a world heritage site since 1997 -- at risk.

Three separate inquiries— two by the forest department and the other by local administration—have been opened on the coal-loaded ship’s capsize.

Of them, one—by the forest department— has filed its report, but the other two probe bodies are yet to submit their findings.

Forest department says that a team of experts has already visited the site at the behest of the vessel’s owner.

“They informed us that they will start the work soon,” Divisional Forest Officer of Sundarbans’ eastern zone Md Saidul Islam told bdnews24.com.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) says they are not equipped enough to pull out the vessel.

“The salvage vessels that we have in Khulna and Barisal can only pull out vessels weighing 250 tonnes,” said BIWTA Khulna Division Assistant Director Ashraf Hossain.

The sunken vessel, weighing around 750 tonnes, was carrying 1,235 tonnes of coal.

 He said that they had spoken to the vessel owners. “They assured us that a salvage vessel will be hired to pull it out.”

bdnews24.com could not contact Munira Kubir, the owner of Sea Horse-1, despite several attempts to reach her over the phone.

The sunken vessel’s Master Sirajul Islam, however, said that they were not able to rent salvage vessel due to non-cooperation by the Forest Department and BIWTA, a claim which officials refuted.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher