After Arakan Shipwreck Tragedy, Myanmar Transport Ministry to Inspect National Ferry Fleet

By San Yamin Aung 18 March 2015

RANGOON — After more than 60 people died in a ferry accident off the coast of Myebon over the weekend, the government has announced plans to inspect all state-owned vessels across the country, beginning with ferries operating in Arakan State.

The government-run Aung Tagun-3 ferry capsized during a voyage from Taungup to Sittwe on Mar. 13, a few hours after leaving the port town of Kyaukphyu. Between 250 and 350 people are believed to have been traveling on the ferry. A total of 61 bodies, including 47 women, were recovered from the shipwreck as of Tuesday, with a further 169 people rescued.

On Wednesday, the state-run newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar said a team led by the managing director of Myanma Shipyards, a department of the Ministry of Transport, would investigate the safety and strength of all vessels operated by the government, with a priority given to the remaining eight vessels in the Arakan fleet.

“Those ferries were bought from China from 1996-97 and have been running since then,” Pe Than, a Lower House lawmaker representing Myebon, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “They are very old and their bodies have become rusty and thin because of seawater.”

Pe Than added that the government should seek a more comprehensive solution and replace Arakan State’s ferry fleet instead of patching up existing vessels.

The Ministry of Transport has also launched its own investigation into the Arakan ferry, which had been asked to report its findings by Wednesday. Pe Than said that the investigation had asked for more time to finalize its report, and stressed that any findings should attempt to ascertain the number of people killed in the incident.

“They haven’t been able to recover all the bodies remaining in the boat, so we can’t know exactly how many people are dead. Without knowing that, as well as who they were and where they were from, the investigation is not complete,” he said.