Simple rules can save lives at sea

Editorial

THE weather office has issued a warning of strong winds sweeping across the Bismarck Sea and seafarers have been warned to take care.
Places around the Bismarck Sea are East Sepik, West Sepik, parts of Madang, all of Manus and the northern parts of New Ireland.
Manus is said to be experiencing gale-force winds sweeping across the island and the weather pattern is expected to continue till Friday.
People along the coast often don’t take heed of weather warnings like this and still go out during windy conditions thinking they know how what to do.
Then something goes wrong and they are fighting for their life.
For some, confidence has come after years of practice and experience at sea – and having watched their fathers and grandfathers navigate through long stretches of water.
Life is not easy in the maritime provinces.
Once you’ve gone past the idyllic settings of swaying palm trees, white sandy beaches and blue lagoons, things can get pretty difficult; you can’t just jump in a bus and go somewhere.
If you need to travel far, then a banana boat is what you need, but banana boats are not fun to be in when the wind picks up – and the wind can pick up with little warning – and the journey becomes perilous.
People die reasonably frequently in open-sea banana-boat crossings and you will need to exercise common sense before boarding one.
The number of lives lost of sea will continue to increase for a variety of reasons, like complacency, negligence and a lack of preparation.
Time and time again, the authorities have called on boat
owners, operators and passengers to be responsible and comply with sea safety measures, and
one does not need to consult an encyclopedia to know how to do those.
The rules are very simple: Do not travel in bad weather, do not overload, carry back-up fuel and a smaller back-up outboard motor, carry enough life jackets, carry a locator beacon and communication device and do not overload the boat.
Simple rules but they save lives.
So what can we do as a country?
First and foremost the government should have rules in place and then ensure those rules are enforced.
Apart from the loss of life, search-and-rescue operations are too costly, and that is why the National Maritime Safety Authority has been calling on small-boat owners and operators to practise sea safety, no matter the condition.
Therefore anyone seen to be flouting the rules must be made to pay heavily.
The authority must, however, be commended for the awareness programmes its community development unit is running in coastal villages.
The authority is also encouraging the governments of the 15 maritime provinces to exercise greater responsibility in the supervision of the betel nut trade, for which travel by banana boats is essential.
These provinces must ensure the Small Craft Act (SCA) 2011 is enforced so that we can see an improvement in the safety of sea travel.

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