Padma bridge pillar hit by ferry: Probe body recommends shifting terminals
A probe committee of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) has recommended shifting the current locations of the ferry terminals on the Shimulia-Banglabazar route to avoid further collision between the vessels and the Padma bridge.
The four-member panel, which was formed after a ferry rammed into a pillar of the long-cherished bridge on Friday, found the acting master and the helmsman (wheel sukani) of the vessel responsible for the incident.
The master gives directions to the helmsman, who holds the wheel of the ferry.
The duo did not take the velocity of the current and wind into consideration when they attempted to cross the Padma River en route to Shimulia of Munshiganj from Banglabazar of Madaripur through the gap between the 16th and 17th pillar of the bridge.
Strong current made the vessel named Shah Jalal swerve as the helmsman lost control, hitting the 17th pillar of the bridge, reads the probe report that was submitted to the BIWTC chairman today.
At least 20 people on board the ferry were injured. At the time, 33 vehicles and about 500 to 600 were on board the ferry, which was relaunched recently after maintenance work.
The incident could have been avoided had the master and helmsman crossed the bridge through the 12th and 13th pillar, found the committee led by SM Ashiquzzaman, general manager of commerce of BIWTC.
Citing their report, a member of the committee said there can be a repeat of the incident if ferries cross the river through the Padma bridge due to the strong current in the monsoon season.
"So, we have recommended changing locations of the present terminal to avoid crossing the bridge," he told The Daily Star wishing not to be named.
Subsequently, shifting of the Banglabazar ferry terminal to Majhikandi or the Shimulia terminal to the old Mawa terminal has been solicited.
With the view to shortening the distance, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) had shifted the ferry terminal to Banglabazar last year from Kathalbari.
The ferry terminal from Mawa was shifted to Shimulia in 2016 after river erosion endangered the previous site.
The travel time will remain almost the same after the change of terminals, said the committee member.
The committee also recommended operating the ferries in between the 4th and 12th pillars of the bridge as the velocity of current is relatively low there.
It also suggested operating relatively speedy ferries amid strong current and keep the slow-speed ferries out of operation during the monsoon, when the velocity of current tends to be high.
Abdur Rahman, master of the ferry on the day of the incident, has been suspended on Friday and the helmsman of the ferry Saiful Islam, another responsible person, was suspended following the submission of the probe report today, BIWTC Chairman Syed Md Tajul Islam told The Daily Star.
The committee has given several recommendations and those have been forwarded to the shipping ministry and the authorities concerned for implementation, Islam said.
Shafiqul Islam, project director of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, told The Daily Star after the incident on Friday that no damage was apparently done to the pillar, but the officials were investigating.
But three days earlier, another ferry had hit another pillar of the bridge, which damaged the ferry.
Two similar incidents within a space of three days centring the long-cherished bridge that is being constructed at a cost of Tk 30,000 crore created huge discussion in social media and top government officials visited the spot on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader today said the collision by the ferry did not cause any damage to the pillar, reports BSS.
Whether the collision was an accident or it is carried out as part of a purpose-oriented conspiracy is being looked into.
The weight of the ferry that hit the pillar was 1,284 tonnes. But as per the design of Padma bridge, every pillar can withstand a brunt of a 4,000 tonne-vessel going at 30 nautical miles speed, the minister added.
The 6.15-kilometre-long bridge is expected to be open to traffic in June next year.