The rainy season is here, so declared PAG-ASA. This means it’s time for maritime agencies in charge of ensuring maritime safety to bring around public consciousness when embarking on sea travel. But then again, concerned maritime agencies must play their important role of safeguarding sea transport, i.e. that ships are so operated safely, and passengers and cargoes reach their port of destination.
To help out in this exercise, I am sharing the experience of some friends as they went island hopping last summer. One friend took a two-hour ride on a passenger banca with outrigger from Batangas to Puerto Galera. She said it was an enjoyable ride to the resort; going back was a nightmare.
She and her family of five took the same type of boat in going back to Batangas. The departure from Puerto Galera was scheduled at 4 p.m. but they left the port at 6 p.m. By that time she knew, coming from an island province in the Visayas herself, that they will be encountering high waves. Her hunch proved her right – and she was panicky in her seat all throughout the trip. She wanted to grab the life vest placed just on top of the banca roof, but she did not dare lest she creates panic. But one lady passenger stood up and took a life vest which she hurriedly put on her young son.
Biased with the knowledge that I was with MARINA before and therefore know the answer, my friend pointedly asked me if there are regulations on following departure schedules for ships and boats and the wearing of life vests. And with condescending tone, she vowed never to return to the place until she sees better ways of reaching the island, as if I have a magic wand to dramatically alter the way things are. What bothered me further was her plan to advise friends not to visit the resort lest they risk their lives.
Another friend shared her not so pleasant experience which was equally risky but which she did not realize until I informed her of the possibilities. Their group took a roll on-roll off (ro/ro) vessel as they brought with them two cars. Again as in the first case, the trip to the island province was a very pleasant one as they enjoyed the sights of the sea with schools of fish following their ship. It was the return trip that proved to be much of a challenge.
The ship was definitely overloaded as there were no seats available for them. They were standing for almost half of the 3 hours of travel. They finally decided to go down the cargo hold where the rolling cargoes were and settled in their car seats, a most daring stunt indeed.
I am reminded of my own daughter’s story on how their group of 18 were provided a banca with just one outrigger as they planned to cross to a nearby island (I never imagined a one outrigger banca exists). She thought that as the trip will take them no more than 30 minutes, that must be safe. As the 18 passengers took their seats, the banca begun to list at the side of the boat with no outrigger – and there was no way the boat could return upright, until they all struggled to sidle to the other side of the boat.
Ensuring safety of the various transport modes has been a continuing challenge for this country. As in the other modes of transport, there are enough rules and regulations to cover foreseeable events and how accidents could be averted. Nonetheless, implementation and enforcement of safety transport regulations appears to be wanting especially in this country where discipline may need to be legislated (that’s a good subject of the incoming 17th Congress).
Complacency in the enforcement of maritime safety regulations at all levels, from the policy-makers, heads of maritime agencies down to ship inspectors and those issuing departure clearances, must be avoided. The same advice goes to ship owners/operators and crew. The riding public are also reminded to demand for them to be provided with sea transport that is safe, secure and comfortable.
And this exhortation is made not only during the rainy season but at all times.