For some people it is merely a habit to board a speedboat and travel to a destination without even
strapping on a life jacket. This practice was recently observed by a Kaieteur News reporter during a trip to Bartica, Region Seven, recently.
Travelling to Bartica in a speedboat requires one to board the boat at the Parika Stelling. Ahead of boarding the vessel, the names of passengers are recorded, after which they are escorted to the vessel.
Ensuring that the vessel is filled to capacity is the task of the bow-man after which the Captain starts the engine as part of his duty to transport passengers to the final destination – the Bartica dock.
At the start of the trip in question there was no warning that the vessel was about to take off. But even after it became clear that the vessel was en route, no appeals were made for passengers to strap on their life jackets. However, some persons, including the reporter, proceeded to “strap up.”
However, some persons who started the near one-hour long journey with their life jackets on, opted to remove it before reaching their destination.
But according to Director General of the Guyana Maritime Administration (MARAD), Ms Claudette Rogers, the failure to wear a life jacket is in fact a violation of the Maritime safety regulations. “The licence and regulations clearly state that you must wear your life jacket. There are clear safety regulations and you have to be compliant with the safety regulations,” asserted Rogers.
Persons found to be non-compliant, according to her, could be charged by the police and taken before the court. “They (police) are the enforcers so if such a person is found not to be in
compliance then we can call in the police,” said the Maritime Director as she pointed out that the captain of the vessel has a responsibility to ensure that the passengers adhere.
In fact a female officer attached to MARAD outlined to Kaieteur News that the captain reserves the right to move the vessel even if all passengers, including children, are not wearing life jackets.
“Once the vessel is on its way, there is no compromise with that (wearing life jackets); it is life-safety equipment that can help to float the body if there is a mishap. You have to comply, because even the best swimmer can drown,” the officer stated.
And the wearing life jacket is viewed as a particularly important feature, she added, in light of the fact that opting to not do so has had fatal outcomes. The officer recalled what she described as “a terrible accident” which occurred in the Essequibo River in the vicinity of Cuyuni/Mazaruni, Region Seven, which claimed the lives of 10 persons aboard a speedboat. According to the officer, the common factor among the victims was that they weren’t wearing life jackets.
According to Rogers, while the captain is ultimately the one tasked with ensuring that passengers are secured before moving off, the vessel cannot be policed throughout the entire journey.
However, she noted that “what we have found though is that captains usually do not report these cases. While we are cognisant that it happens they don’t usually come forward and tell us.”
She said that this is due to the fact, that some might see it as a rather tedious task since “we would have to get the passengers’ names and all other paraphernalia which sometimes become very difficult to get.” But this should not be a challenge, since the names of all passengers are recorded ahead of them boarding the vessel.
However, Rogers noted that MARAD has engaged in activities to monitor the boating activities, though intermittently. This task is performed by Cadet officers, Rogers said, who “report to us…they let us know exactly what is going on, on the ground. They do impromptu visits and we are working towards having a collaborative effort with other agencies such as the Coast Guard.”
“We recognise that this is an area that requires a lot of attention, but we have not been able to respond in the way or time that we would want to, but we are working towards having that corrected,” said Rogers, who disclosed that MARAD’s limitations are linked mainly to human resources.
Although MARAD has not been keeping statistics of those found violating the rules and regulations, Rogers said that “it is a good area that we will be looking at in the not too distant future.”
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