NO OR poor skills of masters cause most of the fatal accidents in the inland water transport sector, as New Age reported on Thursday referring to experts, as masters are often not trained and there has hardly been any scope for their training. Owners think that on-job experience is enough for the masters to efficiently drive the vessels while the masters say that if they go on leave to attend training, they lose their job in most of the cases. Such a situation in the water transport sector almost matches what rules the road transport sector, where accidents are mostly blamed on rash driving more in the absence of driver’s training and owners and leaders of the road transport owners and workers’ associations mostly think that training is of no importance. The Accident Research Institute of the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology says that of the 264 inland water transport accidents that took place between 2005 and 2017, leaving 1,430 people dead, collision was the cause of 58 per cent of the incidents while the shipping department director general seeks to differ, saying that 42.7 per cent of the accidents resulted from collision. A 9 per cent difference in the number of collision hardly matters when about a thousand and a half people have died.
The inland water transport and the road transport sector are also plagued by a similar problem. Shipping department statistics show that there are about 25,000 registered vessels in inland waterways but there are only 17,000 licensed masters. While 8,000 vessels are run by masters having no licences, the 17,000 masters that drive as much number of vessels may not all have been adequately skilled. Road transport sector statistics, as New Age reported in April 2018, show that the Road Transport Authority till then issued registration for 3.42 million vehicles while it issued only 2.45 million driver’s licences, which leaves close to a million vehicles having been run by unlicensed drivers. The situation may have, expectedly, been better by now. But it shows that a similar problem has plagued both the sectors, bringing to the fore the inefficiency of the government and a glaring mismanagement of the state of affairs. While the government needs to shore up issues that plague both the inland water transport and the road transport sector, the government should also see that masters or drivers employed to run vessels or vehicles are adequately trained. The June 29 capsize of a launch, after being hit by another launch that was moving backwards, suggests that on-job experience may not be adequate. All drivers need to be trained and such training needs to be made mandatory by legislation.
Accidents in the inland water transport and the road transport sector caused by the absence of skills and training of the masters or drivers could keep taking place if the authorities concerned started accepting such incidents to be issues not worth attending to. The government must shore up issues to end the chaos that has so far plagued both the sectors in the similar manner.
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