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Tourism operators call on government to crack down on marine safety

PHOTO: Flickr/shankar s.

Following several incidents in the Andaman Sea and Gulf of Thailand, tourism operators are calling for more marine safety measures to be implemented. Eight people are still missing after a total of 7 boats sank in the last week.

All the accidents appear to have been caused by “dangerous sea conditions”, including high winds and waves up to 3 metres high in some parts. Some of the incidents happened in popular locations, near Phang Nga province, Koh Tao, and Pattaya, and involved foreign tourists.

The Bangkok Post reports that the spate of accidents has prompted tourism operators to demand action from the government. The president of the Krabi Tourism Association says operators are concerned Thailand’s marine safety record, both in the pat and these recent events, will affect tourist confidence, in particular at this time of year, as many take boat and ferry trips to popular islands.

Sasithorn Kittidhrakul adds that if the weather forecast doesn’t prompt the Marine Department to issue a warning, boat operators will go to sea as scheduled. She is calling for accidents to be fully investigated to determine if the cause is a lack of preparation, insufficient warnings, poor maintenance, driver experience and training, or other issues that are beyond the control of boat operators.

Ms Sasithorn is also calling for weather forecasts to be improved so they are more precise and officials can issue warnings as necessary. She says officials should base their alerts on boat type and size, as well as the route, as wave intensity will affect boats differently depending on these factors.

She adds that motorboats with passenger capacity of 25 or higher are required to install a tracking system and radio communications system that has been approved by the Marine Department. This means a rescue operation can quickly locate the vessel in the event of an accident.

However, Sasithorn points out that unlicenced boats such as smaller fishing vessels and longtails are exempt from the requirement, despite many longtails transporting tourists.

She says the operators of these boats won’t invest in the systems due to the cost, which is between 40,000 and 50,000 baht. She is calling on the government to help such operators by subsidising the cost and to require all boat operators to have marine travel insurance for passengers.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

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