Sagaing ferry terminal closed
In the wake of the sinking of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2, a disaster which claimed the lives of at least 73 people, the government has decided to temporarily suspend all services out of the Aye Nyein Chan Thar ferry terminal.
THE Sagaing Region government has temporarily closed the ferry terminal that the ill-fated Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry departed from in mid-October.
In the aftermath of the October 15 disaster, which claimed the lives of at least 73 people, the government has decided to temporarily suspend all services running from the Aye Nyein Chan Thar ferry terminal in Kani township.
The ferry was dangerously overcrowded when it set off from the terminal and allegedly did not have the proper licences to run the direct Homalin-Monywa service it was operating.
“The Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry departed from the Aye Nyein Chan Thar ferry terminal so they have some responsibility for the disaster. As such, we have temporarily banned all vessels from this terminal from running,” said Sagaing Region’s Minister for Electricity, Industry and Transport U Than Nyunt Win.
“The suspension is not our final decision. We will decide on the terminal’s future once investigations into the disaster have been completed,” he added.
According to U Tin Tun Aung, head of Sagaing Region’s Department of Marine Administration, the ban was imposed on November 1 and will continue indefinitely while an investigation into the tragedy proceeds.
“We are now conducting investigations and cannot say when they will be finished. We need to arrest another of the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw’s owners. Its driver recently turned himself in to police but we still do not have enough information,” he said.
The ferry’s captain turned himself over to police custody on October 28. Police also arrested four of the ship’s crew last month.
U Tin Tun Aung said yesterday that there was precedent for closing ferry terminals following a disaster.
“Under the previous government, a ferry capsized and the government closed the terminal from where that ferry departed for a year. This event is similar to that,” he said.
Following the capsizing of the Yazar Tun ferry in November 2015, in which 14 passengers lost their lives, the Zabu Tun ferry terminal was closed for a year.
The head of that ferry terminal’s vessel association, U Thant Zin Oo, spoke to The Myanmar Times on the closure of the Aye Nyein Chan Thar ferry terminal and said that some blame should be placed on the Inland Water Transport department as well.
“It is a good measure to ban vessels from running so long as they aren’t given permission to operate in other ways,” U Thant Zin Oo said. “Also, it should be considered that two major ferry disasters [the Yazar Tun and Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 sinkings] have occurred on the watch of the current head of the Inland Water Transport department. It is obvious that this person has some responsibility for these disasters and action should be taken accordingly.”
U Than Nyunt Win, the regional minister, said previously that no one sharing culpability for the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 disaster would be spared disciplinary action or prosecution.
Twenty-seven ferries will be affected by the ban on services from the Aye Nyein Chan Thar ferry terminal. Local residents have expressed concerns over difficulties that the closure may cause.
“If a ferry capsizes, action should only be taken against the operators of that ferry. Now, because of one capsized ferry, all the others have been banned from running. Families who depend on these businesses may face difficulties,” said Homalin township resident U Soe Lin.
“I think it is better to only act against those directly responsible for the disaster. Because of the government’s decision, there will be even fewer ferry routes available for people in Homalin,” he added.
– Translation by Win Thaw Tar
Rescue workers try to pull the Aung Soe Moe Kyaw 2 ferry from the Chindwin River near the city of Monywa, Sagaing Division, on October 18. At least 73 people drowned in the overcrowded ferry’s sinking on October 15.