Marine casualty

I note with sadness the marine casualty involving the MV Butiraoi in Kiribati. The vessel, carrying about 80 passengers failed to reach her destination.

Only seven survivors were found with the help of the New Zealand Air Force.

It is reported that this is the worst marine casualty that our neighbour Kiribati has suffered.

Like our PM, I too send my condolences to the people of Kiribati, in particular, their students and fellowmen who reside in Fiji.

The cause of the casualty will only be known after the relevant marine inquiry is convened and findings made based on the evidence adduced.

In the meantime, I submit that those entrusted by the relevant laws to regulate safety of life at sea here need to take note.

Shipowners need to see that their vessels are not only properly surveyed but are also manned by competent and qualified officers and crew.

They should also record the names of all passengers who travel on their vessels. By recording, I mean their names rather than Tevita x 4; which is supposed to show a Tevita travelling with four others!

I believe the government shipping regulator needs to see that vessels are only allowed to take to sea when they are seaworthy and the weather permits.

The same regulator needs to be strict on preventing the overloading of cargo and passengers.

Vessels are to carry the proper lifesaving equipment as required by the law. Such equipment should work!

In Fiji, since the MV Ovalau casualty in 2004, there have been some recent ones. With the MV Ovalau, I believe a proper marine inquiry was convened.

I note that since then, despite some vessels sinking in our waters and a naval vessel running aground, I believe there haven’t been proper marine inquiries established.

I submit that it’s all very well ratifying international conventions and enacting national laws that govern the proper investigations of such marine casualties.

If marine casualties do occur, like they have recently, and such laws are not implemented, I submit that some responsible decision makers are shirking their duties.

I further submit that we do not have to wait for lives to be lost at sea for decision makers to then jump up and down and then demand for proper inquiries into such mishaps.

One life lost at sea is a life too many.

I can only hope against hope that our authorities will ensure that the laws relating to safety of life at sea are not only implemented but are implemented properly.

May our seafarers and sea commuters always find a safe port.

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