Launch services: Doubt lingers over COVID health rules

Launches are ready to resume passenger transport services after nearly three weeks into a coronavirus lockdown, but the workers doubt whether the health rules can be followed.

Kamal Hossain
Published : 10 August 2021, 04:29 AM
Updated : 10 August 2021, 04:58 AM

Passengers usually travel without keeping physical distancing and they get on or off the launches shoulder-to-shoulder despite the risk of infections amid the pandemic.

The workers fear the situation will get worse as the pressure of passengers will increase after the resumption of services on Wednesday.

Many launches docked at Sadarghat terminal on Monday ahead of the reopening. “We’re getting ready, and also have booked this place,” said a worker of Swarnadwip Plus launch.

Nearly 150 launches travel daily on the 43 routes to the southern districts from the terminal.

Abul Kalam Jhontu, general manager of MV Sundarban, which operates on the route to Barishal and Patuakhali, said they would follow the health rules properly.

“There is no problem in the cabins, but on the decks,” he said.

Most of the passengers travel on the decks as the tickets for a limited number of cabins are pricier.

“You’ll see the pressure of passengers from Wednesday. People will travel fearing another shutdown,” said a worker of Parabat Launch.

He is also doubtful about the health rules on the decks. “The passengers on the decks never heed despite repeated reminders.”

Md Mamun, who works at MV Yaad, thinks the infection risks increase if the services are halted because the pressure of passengers rise after the reopening all the time.

He believes it will be possible to follow the health rules of the authorities keep the services running all the time as the pressure will drop in that case.


The workers said many of them did not get their wages while many others lost jobs when the services were closed in lockdowns. 

Shah Alam, president of Bangladesh Vessel Workers Federation, claimed around 50,000 workers were without any job in the lockdowns.

“Some owners could pay, while many others couldn’t. And the government supported only 1,600 workers with Tk 2,500 cash each,” he said.

Mostafizur Rahman, master of Mitali Launch, said the big companies were able to pay the workers but the small ones could not.

Jhontu, general manager of MV Sundarban, said all of the around 900 workers of their nine launches have been paid regularly. 

Mamun, the owner of MV Yaad, also claimed all their workers have been paid.

He complained that the owners suffered losses due to the lockdowns.

“We had to pay loan instalments. The government denied us incentives.”

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher