May 31, 2013 News Comments Off on MARAD adamant about heightened safety on waterways
….. touts more investment in manpower
By Zena Henry
The Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) continues to worry about the number of accidents occurring on the nation’s waterways and is seeking to put every mechanism in place to deal with the ongoing crisis. The agency is firm about the additional manpower needed to address the issue, adding that there is a need for water safety awareness, especially in communities that border waterways.
Safety Director Steven Thomas told Kaieteur News yesterday that various spheres are being addressed in the fight against irregularities and the failure of persons to adhere to marine rules and regulation. Thomas mentioned that the most vital of ammunition against disasters on the waterways is the awareness of, and adherence, to safety rules and regulations.
He pointed out that several countrywide awareness activities have been launched and are being strengthened in light of the many lives lost due to river accidents over the past few months. According to Thomas, river users, whether boat operators or passengers, need to familiarize themselves with the basics of safety. This is where MARAD comes in, he noted, since lectures, seminars advertising and other forms of disseminating safety information are being used.
Apart from rules and regulations, enforcement plays a key element in monitoring waterway activities and thus managing water disasters. Thomas said that from June last year to now, some 20 Cadet Officers have been engaged in training exercises for waterway safety duties. This includes training for captains, pilots and surveyors; which would complement the effort being placed into tackling irregularities on the waterways.
Thomas asserted that in addition to the law enforcement strategies, a serious approach is being taken towards holding persons responsible when they are at fault on the sea. He pointed out that many times when these boat accidents occur, it is found that operators are not certified and are not registered with the marine agency. He explained that one would become certified as a boat operator given their experience and knowledge of the area where they operate. He continued that these persons would usually work along with vessel commanders, thus gaining the necessary experience. They are then examined by MARAD based on certain criteria and would receive certification depending on their success.
But when an operator chooses to branch off to command a boat uncertified, it poses difficulty, because it cannot be guaranteed that that operator is completely au fait with what he is doing. Thomas suggested that an uncertified and inexperienced boat operator may not have the skills and necessary experience to act meaningfully in the event of a mishap. In terms of safety equipment, he said that MARAD has kept monitoring and is continuing to advocate strongly, while adding that the unavailability of such apparatus may occur when boats and operators are not certified.
Like the roadways, speed is also an issue on the waterways. Thomas said that though it does not exist all the time it is a major issue, since in a few instances where many lives were lost, speeding had made it difficult to avoid disaster. He explained that in the February 2013 Mazaruni accident where 11 people died, speeding was one of the key factors that led to the boat captain and crewmen being charged. Apart from that, the boat had been operating illegally.
Thomas however opined that safety on the waterways is a matter for multi-agency collaboration. The various agencies like the police, MARAD, the Coast Guard and others play key roles in ensuring conformity to rules and regulations.
To further address the ongoing water transport safety issue, MARAD held a seminar on Wednesday to re-educate and re-emphasize to persons, the purpose of waterway safety, rules and regulations. Members of the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard, Guyana Police Force, Guyana Fire Service and MARAD made presentations.
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