Sunday, October 14, 2007

Maritime tradition fell overboard from Tioman ferry

There is a maritime tradition that a distress call must never be ignored regardless of who makes the call. Even in a sporting event like the Sydney to Hobart yacht race, which in 1998 ended in tragedy when the race was hit by severe storms, after the race a boat crew was questioned severely following allegations that it ignored the plight of a crew on a sinking yacht which it passed in the race.

Malaysiakini tells us that survivors of a Malaysian ferry sailing from Pulau Tioman to Mersing spoke of a fire breaking out on board their vessel yesterday. The incident left four dead and four injured. They said it was a terrifying scene as the ageing vessel filled with smoke, forcing them to hurl their children into the sea.

The fire broke out seven nautical miles into its journey, triggering a distress call which in the finest maritime tradition, fishing and tourist boats rushed to the scene and saved 94 people from the sea.

However, there is another maritime tradition which requires the captain of the ship and his crew to leave the vessel in distress ONLY AFTER every passenger had been taken care of.

It was this second tradition that was absent during the ferry fire.

Survivors accused the crew of abandoning them when the passenger cabin filled with thick, black smoke, and giving no help to the elderly and children on board.

Ng Li Peng, a passenger said of the crew:
"They were irresponsible. They left us stranded on the burning ferry without rendering any help and jumped into the sea to save themselves."

"It was so dark and we were blinded. I grabbed my two children and hurled them into the sea and both my husband and I jumped into the sea as well. We would have perished if we had remained in the ferry. We do not know how to swim but had to jump into the sea as we had no other choice."

I guess it was then a case of the crew believing in "women and children after them"?

Yes, that’s our Pulau Tioman to Mersing ferry, not some Indon leaking vessel or an Egyptian boat packed to over capacity – it was a Malaysian ferry sailing in this land of Laksamana Hang Tuah, where we boast of the our maritime heritage which somehow our intrepid crew must have forgotten.

You may be shocked, but wait because there’s more. A Marine Department official said the ferry's permit to transport passengers had expired in December last year and not been renewed. That's almost one year of unlicensed sailing!

So? What's our regulator doing? Look, it's a Marine Department official who said that, so was there any close-one-eye thingy at the top?

I have also read of incidents of terrifying, unauthorised and definitely unsafe mid-sea passenger transfer from ferry to ferry just to save the expense of sailing a ferry, which had very few passengers on board, all the way between the two ports.

Another passenger, Sybil Lucas, 30, said the ferry was old and no longer suitable to transport passengers. She queried:
"During the trip, the engine was giving off a strange noise. The body of the ferry was in a bad condition. I do not understand why the vessel was still in service."

Indeed, we need to ask too because we just had a recent case of another public transport disaster which became a case of
Too little, too late, for 22! because the driver fell asleep on the wheel and allowed the vehicle to hit a road barrier while on a downhill road. It skidded off the highway, overturned and fell into a ditch.

We then found out that the driver of a bus, 28 year old Rohizan Abu Bakar, had two outstanding arrest warrants for reckless driving, apart from 13 summonses from police. Yet he continued to drive ... his passengers to their deaths, or shall I put it more correctly, that because the responsible party or parties failed to stop him from driving the bus as they should, he was thus allowed to kill those unfortunate passengers.

At the heart of the malaise leading to all these tragedies, please read
Express buses - who's regulating whom?


  1. This is another terrible shame !
    Regulators again to be blamed of course ! exactly like that bus thing . wonder what they will come up with nex ? doesn't any man in charge ever gets sacked in this fake PM AAB goment!

    must say you are a real on-da-dot conscience of cyberspace , congrats !

  2. On the same day, 8 foreign tourists were drowned while exploring caves in Thailand. Well, if you are willing to pay for fun, you must also be ready to pay when the fun is over.

  3. The operators are saying that if all rules and regulations are followed strictly iy will lead to an increase in cost which will be passed to the passengers. Never take the last ferry because many passengers will pay at all cost even though they know that the ferry is overload. We will set up another committee to investigate and then forget about it untill the next tragedy happen. Well what bdo we expect of a country which will Maju in 2020. Wer even have vision for 2057 where we will have universities as good as Harvard and Princeton with Mobel Prize awarded by Amno.

  4. The loss of life on the Mersing to Tioman ferry "Seagull Express" was a result of criminal negligence, if the reports from Bernama and in NST on-line, and other sources are factually correct.
    It is likely that the ferry was:
    Unlicensed (licensed expired 10 months ago)
    Overloaded with passengers
    Undermanned with crew
    Had inadequate lifesaving and fire fighting equipment on board
    Master & crew were inadequately certified and poorly trained

    The following parties / authorities need to be independently investigated and if guilty of any crime or dereliction of duty, they must be punished to the full extent of the law.
    The Marine Department
    The Maritime Enforcement Agency (Coastguard)
    The Marine Police
    The ferry owner and the ferry operator
    The master of the ferry
    The crew of the ferry
    The Pahang state tourism authority (they promote this ferry on their web site.
    The Johor state authorities
    All other relevant licensing, regulatory and enforcement authorities.

    In the past maritime incidents have been poorly investigated and shortcomings have been simple swept under the carpet. In many cases the guilty were not punished

    Innocent lives will continue to be lost at sea if the typical Malaysian lackadaisical 'tiada apa' attitude continues unchecked.

    Malaysia urgently needs an independent Marine Accideny Investigation Board

  5. There are quite strict Malaysian regulations covering vessels which carry fare-paying passengers.

    But enforcement and accountability is another matter..

    As usual in Bolehland, nobody ever gets fired for not carrying out their duty or doing shoddy work...

    Accountability ? Apa-tu ?

  6. "Luckily" this incident involxves only local tourists and hence will not be played up in the foreign press. Otherwise Visit Malaysia Year will become a joke from now on in other countries

  7. Nevertheless the news is already in the Gulf Times of Doha and other overseas media, visit Malaysia Year is getting more 'good' publicity.

  8. Add to that national and regional newspapers in the UK,(eg 'The Scotsman, 'Sussex Times'), media in India, Singapore and Yahoo News worldwide, and more besides. The ugly side of Malaysia exposed yet again.

  9. Lives were lost and someone said lickily it invovled local tourists only. Would he have said the same thing if it involved one of his loved ones.

  10. What was the underlying cause of the tragedy at sea off Mersing?
    It was A B C
    Apathy, Bribery and Corruption.
    All the filth must be exposed and cleaned up; and festering sores must be cut out.
    Justice must be done, all those who are guilty must be exposed, brought to book and severely punished.

  11. In other true democracies, their transport ministers would had assumed full responsibility and resigned as a matter of principle within hours of the tragedy. But over here, Chan KC is busily looking for someone to take the blame

  12. It is not surprising that Malaysian enforcement is yet to achieve the desired level. In general, nothing happens is good news for the nation, those enforcement agencies, the Minister, etc. Let me quote you a typical case of similar nature of lack of enforcement by the govt agencies. There is this non-licensed security services being offered by a company in Subang Jaya. I had complained on 10 August 2007 by email to the Ketua Setiausaha of MOIS and was told by subsequent reply emails that he had referred the matter to Bukit Aman to investigate. Matter already in their hands, (which I presumed since the Ketua Setiausaha MOIS had referred to Bukit Aman), there is no visible action taken as that unlicensed security services company continues to run this business in full violation of the law. Since no visible action was taken by the police, I had also written numerous emails directly to the PM (AAB) via the PM's website appealing for the PM's attention, but again there is no reply. Apparently either there is :-
    i) no one manning the PM's website on his behalf, or
    ii)those manning his website could not be bother to forward him my email complaints, or
    iii)the believe to handle only if disaster strikes.
    Can you image, this matter has been brought to the highest level and yet this is the lament we ordinary citizens have to bear. Are we not doing the right thing to whistle blow? The question is tidak apa attitude. Just wait for tragedies to happen. Just like what AAB had ordered a full investigation into the Tioman ferry tragedy.

    Unlicensed security services can also lead to thefts, murders, rape cases etc. Come On!!

  13. The Marine Dept is 100% responsible for the safety of ife at sea of vessels in Malaysian waters and for Malaysian registered vessels. The Director General of Jabatan Laut must shoulder full responsibility and not pass the buck to his subordinates. Incompetent people in important positions!