Sea Change Required

The sinking of a boat off Bali this week that claimed at least 11 lives is another tragic reminder of the state of many vessels plying the waters around us.

The craft that sank on Wednesday was a traditional fishing boat taking villagers back to Nusa Penida and may have been overloaded with heavy musical instruments that caused it to capsize. But as this is the way many people travel between islands, regulation of this method of travel is required, just as it is with road vehicles.

The commercial boat and ferry industries are also in serious need of scrutiny, yet firms operating in this area, who count foreign and domestic tourists as their main customers, go unchecked. Incidents continue to happen where vessels get into difficulty because they are overloaded and in many cases the life-preserving equipment on board, such as vests and rafts, is insufficient – or non-existent. The clock is ticking towards a major disaster.

The country’s aviation industry endured tragedy after tragedy in recent years until the authorities started actually enforcing safety regulations that were already in place. Now, thanks to that vital work, fatal crashes have become a rarity and some airlines have been allowed back into European airspace, where they had once been banned.

Domestically, on our seas, the same needs to happen. Vessels should not be permitted to put to sea with more people than they are physically and legally allowed to carry. Ongoing no-notice safety inspections must be routinely carried out, checking the vessels’ seaworthiness as well as the emergency equipment.

Regulations are in place to protect us, and our visitors. Failure to act on them is a shameful disservice not only to the nation but the wider world.

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