Mrauk U commercial boat services going under

THE daily running of river motorboat services between urban centres and outlying villages in the Rakhine State district of Mrauk U are on the verge of being shut down, according to local motorboat owners.
The combination of improvements to road infrastructure within the region and a rise in the number of privately owned motorboat has created a situation that could nearly put commercial passenger motorboat enterprises out of business.
“It’s not the age of commercial motorboats anymore. Things haven’t been good [for the industry] for about three years now. Roads have been built in the countryside, allowing people to travel easily by car or motorcycle. On top of that, it seems as if every family that lives in villages that are completely cut off from road access come to town with their own private motorboats. Nobody rides the passenger river motorboats anymore, so it has come to a point where the commercial motorboat industry is about to close up shop,” said U Thein Htun, a port official in Minbya Township.
The lack of commercial motorboat passengers has forced operators to adapt their businesses in order to stay afloat financially, providing transportations services for the movement of goods such as paddy, rice, sand and rocks. Together with a developing road infrastructure in Rakhine State, there is an increased prevalence of local residents using motorbikes, three-wheeled vehicles and cars, while small motorised boats, which have become affordable in recent times, are being used by residents to travel along the waterways in the townships of Myaybon, Minbya, Kyauktaw and Mrauk U.
“A commercial motorboat used to run between the village of Min Kyaung and the town of Myay Pone last year, but it was a financial disaster. Even the petrol expenses incurred couldn’t be earned back, which is why the service isn’t running this year. Motorboat owners can’t get any passengers anymore since everyone is travelling by their own small motorised water boats. Previously, economically viable motorboats that ran services along routes between Myaybon, Minbya and Kan Htaung Gyi don’t have any passengers anymore with all the roads that have been built. As a result, most motorboat companies have stopped their operations. Most have switched to renting out their motorboats for the transportation of products such as timber and rice,” said U Nyi Taut Kyay, a resident of Min Kyaung Village in Myaybon Township. Up until 2013, the only way to travel around many parts of Rakhine State was via the state’s network of waterways, but in the years since, an increase in the number of roads being built has brought about a significant drop in the number of commercial motorboat passengers.

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