PM calls for review of sea safety following boat tragedy

A typical banana boat in the Solomon Islands

The Prime Minister has announced a review into emergency response systems and boat safety in the Solomon Islands following last week’s boat tragedy which looks to have claimed 15 lives.

The review, announced in a statement yesterday, will aim to improve the capacity of emergency services to immediately mobilise assets whenever required.

It comes following criticisms of the response times during last week’s boat tragedy in Marau, East Guadalcanal, with the Malaitian Premier claiming the rescue effort was delayed because of  problems with authorities paying bills.

The search and rescue efforts since last Thursday’s incident have now been scaled down. Supervisor of the Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Centre in Honiara, Peter Young, told SIBC News there has was no sight of any debris in the area.

The tragic boat incident has claimed five lives while 11 others are still unaccounted for presumed dead. Responding to claims of slow search responses, Mr Young said it had no assets (boats or rescue vessels) to deploy.

“Here at the Search and Rescue centre, we don’t have any standalone asset,” he said.

“We don’t have any helicopter, no patrol vessel or such so the arrangement we have and our responsibility here is only to coordinate the operation and for the assets, we’ll have to see who owns and is responsible for these assets.”

Banana boats look set to have stricter safety features

The Ministry of Infrastructure Development will now be tasked to provide a standard specification of manufacturing of banana boats using either aluminium or fibreglass and the requirement for the installation of safety features on the boats.

It is understood there will the review will also look at introducing strict compliance with minimum safety measures and conditions, mandatory use of life rafts, mandatory use of locator beacons installed on the boat, flares, maximum passenger and cargo carry, non-consumption of alcohol by operator and passengers.

The Task force will be providing the Government with recommendations to prevent such tragedies in the future and the office of the Attorney-General will be instructed to facilitate the drafting of necessary legal instruments.

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