DENNIS JAMITO

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Frequent sea mishaps…as usual

Within a week after a ferry collided with a fishing boat and a roll-on, roll-off vessel sank, two more RORO ships stalled at sea in Southern Tagalog.

The M/V Starlite Navigator developed engine trouble on its way to Oriental Mindoro from Batangas Wednesday night and had to be towed to port, while the M/V Torrejos ran aground the next day on its way to Marinduque from Lucena City.

Fortunately, there were no casualties in the incidents, unlike in the collision of the ferry Catalyn B and fishing vessel Anatalia off Cavite on Christmas Eve, and the sinking of the RORO Baleno 9 off Verde Island in Batangas two days later.

Ten people died and at least 75 others are still missing in those two disasters. Those tragedies at the end of a bad year should finally prompt the government to get serious about maritime reforms.

An official wants operators of commercial vessels to be required to provide life vests to every passenger.

The head of the Maritime Industry Authority, for her part, has vowed to conduct an audit of ships, starting with ROROs, to make the industry comply with international safety standards.

Marina Administrator Maria Elena Bautista wants auditors to study the schedule of repair and dry-docking as well as conduct an inventory of spare parts of every RORO.

The plan makes sense and ship operators should cooperate with its implementation if they want to make sea travel safe in this archipelago.

Authorities will also have to be innovative and devise ways, despite limited resources, of making all ship owners comply with maritime transportation safety rules.

Random inspections of ships can be conducted and a carrot-and-stick approach employed to encourage ship owners’ compliance.

Legislators will have to do their part and pass additional laws to promote safety in maritime transportation.

But all those laws will be useless without proper enforcement, and without the government showing that violators are sure to be penalized.

Some members of the shipping industry are reportedly grumbling about the Marina administrator’s plan.

Authorities should listen to the woes of the industry, but without losing track of the urgency of improving safety in maritime transportation.

Safety should be the paramount concern of ship owners who want long-term viability for their business, and they should welcome proposals to keep their passengers safe. (philstar)

January 3, 2010 - Posted by | Excerpts, National

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