Struggling speedboat company Mawa launched after Padma Bridge opens


A total of 151 speedboats and 87 launches are registered under Shimula ghat which employs several thousand people

27 June 2022, 15:10

Last modification: June 27, 2022, 10:41 p.m.

Photo: Moinuddin Sumon


Photo: Moinuddin Sumon

As the whole country rejoices over the Padma Bridge which was opened to traffic on Sunday June 26, multitudes of people dependent on the mighty Padma River for their livelihood are finding themselves on pins and needles.

Just two days after the inauguration of the dream project, owners and workers of naval transports like the launches and speedboats that ply the Shimulia-Banglabazar and Shimulia-Majirkandi routes have expressed frustration over the looming future of the ‘company.

While claiming to be happy with Padma Bridge, speedboat owner Topu Ahmed was worried about his business future.

“Drivers and owners of speedboats make money when boats sail. Yesterday my boat made only one trip while today it couldn’t even make one from now on. I’ll finish by selling the boat if this continues,” he said.

A total of 151 speedboats and 87 speedboats are registered under the Shimula ghat which employs several thousand people.

Abdul Awal, Upazila Nirbahi (UNO) officer from Louhajang said, “Not just the speedboat and speedboat drivers, the livelihoods of about 5,000 people are centered around the Shimulia ghat.

He also noted that many jobs will be created if the plan to turn the Shimulia ghat into a tourist center materializes and speedboats and sea boats can still be used for river cruises.

Khokon Ahmed, the owner of a rowboat named ML Tapan, said, “My rowboat has been traveling this route for a long time. My crew members and I were pretty well off with the revenue from the rowboat.”

“But passengers have dried up since the bridge was inaugurated. Only 10 launches worked yesterday. The ghat area is now eerily empty,” he added.

Launch and boat terminals in Shariatpur and Madaripur were also found deserted on Monday. Companies that concentrate these terminals are facing a difficult time due to a lack of passengers.

Most fruit shops were closed and fewer customers were seen in hotels and restaurants. Many food business owners have sold their stores, while others are considering doing so.

Photo: TBS/Photo: Moinuddin Sumon

Photo: TBS/Photo: Moinuddin Sumon

Photo: TBS/Photo: Moinuddin Sumon

The people concerned in these terminals demand rehabilitation through the creation of alternative jobs.

Fruit merchant Shahjalal said the daily sale at the terminal was good. “I used to sell for 30-35,000 Tk of fruits per day. But today I earned 5,000 Tk from selling fruits. A few shops have already been closed. I wonder what to do next .”

Hasan Mollah, a hotelier at Ilias Ahmed Chowdhury Ghat, said, “I have been involved in hospitality here since childhood. With 18 employees, my hotel’s daily sale was around Tk 50,000.”

“I earned 6,000 Tk today (Monday). I have fired 15 employees so far. I think I have to close my business. I don’t know what to do,” he added.

According to the tenants of the terminal and the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC) office, there are 211 commercial establishments including 37 hotels, 39 fruit shops and 54 tea stalls at Ilias Ahmed Chowdhury ghat in Madaripur. The Sattar Madbar-Mangalmajhir ghat in Shariatpur has about 144 businesses including 11 hotels, 7 fruit shops and 29 tea stalls.

No less than 1,100 people are employed in 86 launches and 250 speedboats registered under these two terminals. Another 1,000 people are involved in toll collection, loading and unloading of goods.

Al Amin, a resident of Naodoba, has been earning his living transporting passengers’ luggage to the launch terminal for 12 years. He is now sick with worry about his only means of earning a living.

“I’m responsible for my mother and my little sister at home. Being a porter is all I know. If the speedboats stop, I have to go fishing or do some agricultural work, I guess,” said he declared.
Md Shahadat Hossain, Deputy Director and Port Officer of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), assured that initiatives are being taken by the water transport regulator and the Ministry of Merchant Marine to rehabilitate vessels and people concerned.

“Efforts are underway to find an alternative domestic route. In addition, arrangements will also be made to operate the river port of Shimulia in case of passenger demand,” he added.


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