Home » Maritime » Task force on maritime safety to be formed

THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will form a task force to check and validate the efficiency of safety procedures implemented by local shipping operators.

The task force will conduct random checks and ground ships that fail safety standards.

“Carelessness, that’s why most accidents occur. That’s why we really have to develop a new culture of safety,” Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza said in a recent dialogue with domestic shipping stakeholders.

He added the government will start a comprehensive retraining of local seafarers.

The task force will be composed of representatives from the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy. It should be noted though that safety inspections by the agencies concerned are nothing new.

DOTC has also released a new set of recommendations aimed at promoting safety standards that conform to international shipping norms including the phase out of wooden-hull passenger vessels, stricter regulations of small boats, implementation of age caps on vessels, and adoption of the airline passenger boarding system to ensure proper accounting and documentation of passengers.

Measures from seafarers

Meanwhile, the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) is calling for drastic measures to prevent maritime accidents from occurring again.

In a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, UFS identified several policies lined up by Marina that if approved could have prevented recent accidents such as the collission of motor boat Catalyn B with a fishing vessel on Christmas eve.

UFS said the use of wooden-hull ships should have been banned last year but Marina has allowed its extended use. The group also argued that most wooden-hulled vessels are bereft of the appropriate navigational and marine engine equipment and facilities to ensure the safety of its passengers.

Catalyn B and several other motorized bancas involved in maritime accidents over the past two years were all wooden-hulled vessels.

UFS also questioned Marina’s policy of allowing altered vessels such as the sunken MV Baleno 9 to ply domestic waters. Most vessels plying domestic waters are imported, and have therefore undergone a series of alternations to fit Philippine conditions.

“It is a big question mark on the minds of many stakeholders in the local shipping industry why vessels, like motorized bancas and those imported ones designed for inland waters in Japan for example, are being issued by Marina a franchise to navigate in the open seas,” UFS said.

“In view of this, we appeal to your good judgment to look into the matter as this may actually mean a stop to the series of maritime incidents, which could have been avoided only if proper government actions and the enforcement of maritime safety rules and regulations were taken seriously,” UFS told President Arroyo.

Marina, for its part, is coming out with a series of circulars to prevent accidents involving smaller vessels, including a standard cargo stowage system.

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