POST TIME: 9 November, 2019 00:00 00 AM
2 lakh illegal vessels operate in country

2 lakh illegal vessels operate in country

The Department of Shipping (DoS) has failed several times to register vessels plying illegally in the country due to the interference of local politicians. According to DoS sources, there are around two lakh engine-driven boats, sand carriers, speedboats, bulkheads, trawlers and fishing boats without any registration in the country. It is mandatory to register a vessel if the engine is over 16 horse powers. However, hundreds of owners across the country are illegally plying their vessels whose engines were between 20 to 60 horse powers, the sources said. Besides, the owners don’t find interest to register their vessels due to complications of value added tax (VAT) and other taxes, a DoS source said, adding that if the system could be made easier, the owners will register their vessels.

According to DoS sources, at least Tk. 25,000 is needed to register a speedboat and Tk. 40,000 per bulkhead, including survey fees. However, the government has been losing revenue to the tune of Tk 500 crore every year as registration fees for the unregistered bulkheads and speedboats. The shipping department has taken the issue very seriously, DoS director general Commodore Syed Ariful Islam told The Independent.

“We have submitted a project to conduct a census of water vessels in the country. The proposal is lying with the shipping ministry for approval,”

Ariful said.

Asked about the number of unregistered vessels, the DoS chief replied, “It is very difficult to say the exact number, but a significant number of vessels are plying in the country without

registration. It would be possible to verify

the number only after completion of the proposed census.”

The DoS authorities had taken the initiative to conduct the census in 2015.

DoS sources said it would be impossible to implement the project without political cooperation from the local level, adding that a

section of local politicians back the owners of speedboats and other small vessels and create problems to register such boats.

As a result, several hundreds of such vessels have been operating illegally and without safety equipment in the country.

Over 1.5 lakh engine driven boats are plying without any registration only in coastal and haor areas like Sunamganj, Sylhet, Moulvibazar, Kishoreganj and Netrokona, the sources said.

According to a 2017 survey conducted jointly by the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and Unnayan Shamannay, approximately seven lakh river vessels transport goods as well as passengers in Bangladesh. Annually, 50 million passengers are carried through the waterway networks in the country (BIWTA, 2017), it said.

According to DoS, 12,401 vessels were registered from 1952 till December 2018. These include passenger launches (832), passenger boats (417), cargo carriers (2,884), oil tankers (326), sand carriers (4,814), dredgers (1,214), goods carriers (844), barges (437), tugs (144), speedboats (296), ferries (40), workboats (49), inspection boats (26) and others (78).