IT IS a source of some comfort to see the authorities, on at least two occasions, intervening in instances of alleged violation of safety procedures in relation to boat cruises. Such parties are well-patronised and firm action by the State will always trigger disruption. But the inconvenience is worth it. “Safety first” must be the message sent by the State. And it must be the mantra of the private sector.
In relation to the most recent incident, there are reports the captain may face charges for alleged safety violations that were noticed on Saturday. One ship reportedly lacked the proper safety certificate and licence. In such circumstances, not only was the intervention of the authorities appropriate, but the fact that the matter has been picked up by the Customs and Excise Division of the Ministry of Finance along with the Maritime Services Division of the Ministry of Works and Transport for further action is also welcomed.
Anyone who violates maritime safety rules faces being charged for a range of offences, including failing to have necessary documents aboard. If convicted, a captain would face a $1,000 fine and/or six months imprisonment. Licences granting permission to navigate along the coast of a country can only be provided by Customs and Excise and are a crucial means of regulating the traffic of vessels in our waters. This is even more crucial when the vessel involved takes on members of the public for the purposes of an event like a Carnival cooler cruise, at which alcohol consumption is to be expected.
Not only are we all aboard when it comes to the intervention of the authorities, but we also call for a review of existing laws and more policing when it comes to matters like this. It should not get as far as a ship having already disembarked from shore for the authorities to get involved. While it is laudable that firm action was taken, it should be emphasised that it was a matter of some luck that there was no incident that resulted in any injury or loss of life. Things could have easily been different.
Only two weeks ago, authorities had to intervene when mechanical issues reportedly affected another cruise. There are reports that the boat involved got into difficulty mid-voyage and Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith had to be appealed to for the matter to be dealt with.
These incidents underscore the need for aggressive regulation of these vessels and events. Such regulation must involve rigorous inspection upfront before lives are put at risk. This extends beyond merely checking to make sure vessels are fit for purpose, but also examining the books of the entities involved to ascertain the projected load and to ensure the event has not been over-subscribed. The State’s oversight must extend beyond just checking life jackets.