Let Not Sailing Be Saddening

Zaidul Hasan..

That people are moving by sea from time immemorial is very natural and has no news value in it. But once a ship or ferry capsize or goes aground either in river or sea is a great piece of news for the newspapers and modes of media. As far as we know Noah’s (A) Ark is the first boat the human history has chronicled. The Noah’s Ark was recently discovered. We don’t know how the ark got into sea but we know how the great liners like Titanic, Costa Concordia, MV Nasrin, MV Maharaja sank. A cinema was made on the Titanic sinking too. The 1997 D’caprio- Kate Winslate movie? Yeah! That’s what we all remember in the first position. We remember the real tragedy later as a side-story. Now try to name another ship that had sunk. Can you? Most of us cannot name any except the Titanic though that was not the only ship that sunk. Thanks to the blockbuster movie that at least we know one name.

Though Titanic as a single shipwreck surpassed the all other shipwrecks but over the years Bangladesh has many of its people in local shipwrecks. Many of the families have lost their near and dear ones in these ferry capsizes. In the history of Bangladesh there are some key dates which are important for shipwrecks. According to website timelines.com since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971 over 3816 people were feared drowned or killed in 24 launch or ferry or fishing boat capsizes. Most of the accidents took place because of flouting the rules and regulations regarding launch service. These launches or ferries have either took passengers beyond their capacities or overloaded with goods or had no fitness for plying the mother vessels. In most cases there were insufficient lifebuoys. Some fishing boats which went missing forever didn’t follow the cautionary signal emitted by the meteorological department.

Timeline of Bangladeshi shipwrecks
1986 : Apr 20, The Atlas Star, a double-decker ferry, sank in stormy weather in Bangladesh. 500 passengers were feared drowned.
1986 : May 25, Some 600 people died when the ferry Shamia went down in the River Meghna in southern Barisal district, Bangladesh.
1994 : Aug 20, More than 250 killed when a ferry sank in a storm on the River Meghna in Bangladesh.
1996 : May 23, In Bangladesh as many as 77 people were feared drowned in a sunken ferry after a collision on the Jamuna River. More than 50 ferries have sunk since 1981 killing more than 1,000 people.
1997 : Jun 13, A ferry on the Dhanu River northeast of Dhaka capsized in a whirlpool and at least 50 people were drowned.
1997 : Aug 1, At least 150 fishermen were missing in the Bay of Bengal after a storm sank their boats.
1998 : Aug 12, In Bangladesh over 100 fisherman in trawlers and boats capsized in the Bay of Bengal during a storm and were feared dead.
1999 : May 8, In Bangladesh 200 people were feared dead when a river ferry boat sank. About 100 people were rescued or swam to shore.
2000 : Sep 1, In Bangladesh, 13 boats with 130 fishermen were reported sunk during rainstorms.
2000 : Dec 29, A ferry collided with another ferry ship and sank on the Meghna River in southeastern Bangladesh. At least 178 people were killed.
2002 : Nov 13, Some 200 people were feared dead after 19 boats disappeared in a storm off Bangladesh.
2003 : Apr 4, In northeastern Bangladesh a river boat carrying more than 170 people capsized, killing 79 people, including 49 children.
2003 : Apr 21, In Bangladesh two ferry boats capsized during tropical storms on different rivers, and hundreds of people were missing. MV Mitali, went down in the Buriganga River, and the ML Majlishpur ferry, carrying about 90 members of a wedding party, capsized in the Meghna River.
2003 : Jul 8, In Bangladesh a ferry, with an estimated 750 passengers, sank at the confluence of the Padma, Meghna and Dakatia rivers about 40 miles south of the capital, Dhaka. Some 220 survivors were counted.
2004 : May 23, In eastern Bangladesh 2 river ferries carrying about 250 passengers capsized during a storm, and dozens of people were feared dead. The death toll climbed to 74. Jul 27, A boat carrying people to a flood shelter capsized in Bangladesh killing 10 people.
2005 : Feb 19, In Bangladesh a double-decker passenger ferry capsized and sank during a tropical storm, leaving at least 151 people dead. The MV Maharaj was carrying about 200 people when it capsized on the Buriganga River just outside Dhaka.
2006 : Oct 23, In central Bangladesh a ferry packed with dozens of people going home for an Islamic festival capsized in a river after hitting a cargo boat, killing at least 15 people.
2008 : Feb 28, In Bangladesh a ferry carrying more than 100 people collided with a cargo vessel and capsized in a river near Dhaka, killing at least 39 people with 20 missing.
2008 :May 12, In Bangladesh a ferry on the Ghorautura River capsized with nearly 150 passengers and at least 44 people were killed.
2009 : Feb 8, In eastern Bangladesh a ferry boat sank after colliding with a larger ferry on the Titas River, killing 10 women and children.
2009 : Nov 27, In southern Bangladesh the MV Coco-4, a triple-deck ferry packed with hundreds of travelers heading home for an Islamic festival, capsized on the Tetulia River as passengers disembarked, leaving at least 77 dead and dozens missing.
2010 : Oct 7, Bangladesh boat operators said at least 200 fishermen were missing after 15 fishing boats capsized in the Bay of Bengal during a storm. A storm surge over the past two days has sent waves five feet high crashing into several towns and villages along the coast.
2012 : Mar 13, In Bangladesh a ferry packed with about 200 people collided with a cargo boat and capsized in the Meghna River, killing 142 people and over a dozen more missing.
(Source: timelines.com)

This January another international ship went down near the western coast of Italy. It was not that much tragic like the Titanic, but it sure was exiting news in the beginning of the year.  MS Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship was on a 6 port tour from Civitavecchia, Italy. On January 13th she was passing near Gigilo Island while she struck a reef on her port side. The hit caused a 160 feet long gash on her body below waterline. With the opening, water rushed inside the ship and floated the engine room and generators. Power to the motors was cut. The ship drifted back to Gigilo Island and grounded. She lied on her starboard side at a 70° angle in about 20 meters water. Much of her structure was above the water when she grounded.
The Costa Concordia was carrying 3229 passengers and 1023 crew members on board. 25 of them were dead and 64 injured. 7 are missing. The rests on board were lucky to return safely from the ship.

Rescue and evacuation
Like the Titanic Costa Concordia didn’t hit an iceberg. But she had the same problem of lacking sufficient lifeboats for the onboard passengers and crews. The evacuation process was started late after the hit. Many were rescued by helicopters and ferry. Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard played important role on the rescue. Civilians from Gigilo Island tried to help their best in the rescue mission. The deputy mayor of the island himself went onboard for rescuing.
Passengers from the ship complained that they were ready to evacuate but they were delayed by the crews. Sources report that the ship did not list for an hour. So the lifeboats could have been launched to allow the passengers reach safety. Passengers also complained that the crews seemed untrained in launching the lifeboats.
A search for the missing people was held for the next 15 days.

The captain
the captain of Costa Concordia was Captain Francesco Schetinno. He can be held responsible for the incident. He deviated from the ship’s computer programmed route to take a near-shore salute and moved near the shore. He also turned off the alarm system for the ship’s computer navigation system. Captain Schetinno later admitted that he had made a navigational mistake. He admitted that he understood to be close to the reef but was late to order the turn.
Captain Schetinno was also late to order the evacuation. Moreover he left the ship in the first hour of rescuing leaving many of the passengers and crew onboard on their own. Later he was charged for multiple manslaughter in connection with causing a shipwreck, failing to assist the passengers and failing to be the last to leave the wreck.

Threat to environment
The sunken Costa Concordia has raised a serious threat to the environment. Poor weather conditions can cause the ship to slipping down to deep water which also may cause a spill of oil from the ship. She is holding 2400 tonnes of fuel oil. If such amount of oil starts to spill they would devastate Europe’s biggest marine park. Gigilo Island is near a zone designated a sanctuary for marine mammals.

Loss and Damages
25 people are known to have died and 64 others were injured. Three people (two passengers and one crewman) trapped inside the ship were rescued more than 24 hours after the accident. 7 people are unaccounted for and are presumed dead.
Where the question of ship’s damage, industry experts believe it’s a constructive total loss with damages of 500 million US Dollars. Experts also say the chance of raising and floating off the ship is fifty-fifty. But the question is will the ship be worth repairing?

Comparison with Titanic
The Costa Concordia was compared with the Titanic. It was a huge ship. It took an identical hit on her. It had the same lacking of lifeboats. Coincidently one of the survivors Valentina Capuano is a granddaughter of a woman who survived the Titanic tragedy 100 years earlier. Capuano said she was “dumbstruck” that history seemed to be repeating itself. Some passengers said that the Titanic theme “My Heart Will Go On” was playing in a restaurant when the ship hit the rock. No matter what matches with the Titanic, luckily the end was not the same.

All over the world liners sink burying passengers and treasures in the seas where divers like to dive in search of wealth lost due to running aground. To stop loss of lives and treasures authorities concerned should implement the mother vessel laws, putting an end to the ships going aground or sinking or crashing against anything. Bangladeshi vessel captains need to follow the existing laws strictly. Not only that riverine Bangladesh needs more than two age-old salvage ships to rescue the lives in danger.

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