Ferry owners threaten strike if fares not hiked by June 27

Shahin Akhter | Published at 12:54am on June 21, 2020

The owners threaten to stop plying all launches if the authorities did not meet their demand of a 50 per cent increase in launch fares by June 27 during the COVID-19 crisis.

The decision was taken on Saturday at a meeting of Bangladesh Inland Water Passenger Carrier’s’ Association at its office in the capital.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq told New Age it would not be possible to hike fare in this short period and in the prevailing coronavirus situation.

Following requests from the launch owners’ association to increase the fares by 50 per cent, a technical committee formed by the authority is working to find a solution at present.

Earlier on May 31, the movement of passenger launches resumed following a government order after more than two months of general holidays.

Before that on May 29, the authorities gave directions to the launch owners to take less passengers following health regulations while the owners demanded 50 per cent hike in fares.

On the same day, a decision was taken to observe the number of passengers for the next 10 days before considering the demand for fare hike.

After 10 days, a technical committee was formed comprised of the officials from shipping ministry and owners’ associations.

Bangladesh Inland Water Passenger Carriers’ Association senior vice-president and member of the technical committee, Badiuzzaman Badal, told New Age that the launch fare had not been adjusted since 2013.

He also said that currently they demanded 50 per cent fare hike as they were incurring losses after being forced to run only 50 per cent launches due to lack of passengers since the service resumed.

‘We held a meeting today and took a decision that if the authorities do not meet our demand we will stop plying launches from June 27,’ he said.

He added that they would send a letter in this regard to the shipping ministry and concerned offices today.

BIWTA chairman Commodore Golam Sadeq said that it would take more time to take the decision of increasing launch fares.

He said that they did not get any letter from the launch owners about stopping launch services from June 27 if their demand of fare hike remained unmet.

It would not be possible to meet their demand in such a short notice and especially in this time of people’s hardship, he added.

BIWTA director for traffic Rafiqul Islam, who is member secretary of the technical committee to rearrange fares, said that so far they held one meeting and more meetings would be called.

Currently they were examining different issues like prices of spare parts to fix the fare of launches, he added.