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Prioritising safety at sea

Fred Wesley
Wednesday, November 29, 2017

TWO men are dead and another was missing at sea last night when the barge they were travelling on to Yasawa Island capsized yesterday morning.

The bodies of the men were found washed up on the beach near Dalomo Village on Yasawa Island.

They were passengers on the Kaiwai which capsized en route to the northern end of the island.

The incident will no doubt raise the issue of safety at sea once again.

As investigations continue into the incident, we are reminded about the need for safety, especially now that we are into the school holidays.

This is a time when thousands of people around the country travel to various destinations.

Some will travel by road to reach their destinations. Some will travel by air and many will travel by boats.

Separated by waters of the Pacific Ocean, inter-island shipping services are a key part of the lives of people who travel from our many islands scattered in the Lau Group, Lomaiviti and the Yasawas.

The frequency or lack of it in terms of shipping services is indeed a daunting feature of the industry.

Surely any bid to improve services will be welcomed, especially when one takes into account the fact that many people still brave the elements and risk their lives crossing our waters on open fibreglass boats.

Some do this in the face of irregular shipping services.

This has, however, come with its associated dangers, with a number of boats capsizing in rough seas and people going missing.

As much as they will want to adhere to safety requirements, the bottom line is, time becomes a very important factor for many people.

The onus though is on our shipping industry to address shortfalls and to put in place a timetable that is regular and workable for all stakeholders.

There is heightened expectation that services can be improved.

As much as we will want to encourage industry stakeholders to improve their fleets, there will obviously be a call for legislation to tighten up safety issues generally, and for the State to put together more incentives for companies that offer such services.

Shipping companies that take the initiative to improve their fleet deserve acknowledgement. We also acknowledge companies that strive to meet expectations of the travelling public.

We wonder though whether this business is lucrative enough for them to stay and continue to upgrade their fleets?

Because of the geographical make-up of our islands and distances that have to be travelled, perhaps there is a need for a service that meets the needs of travellers.

Let us be reminded though that safety issues must be prioritised.

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