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EDITORIAL: Boat sinking reminds of need for standards


BARBADOS NATION

EDITORIAL: Boat sinking reminds of need for standards

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THE WEEKEND TRAGEDY that involved the sinking of pleasure boat Boyceterous Catamaran just off Trevor’s Way in The City ought to be a wake-up call for authorities and pleasure seekers alike.

No doubt every Barbadian is grateful there was no loss of life and that personnel on board the Barbados Coast Guard vessel HMBS Excellence and the fishing boat Chizzar were able to rescue all 47 passengers and crew. We also welcome the disclosure by Harbour Master Richard Alleyne that his office will carry out a full investigation.

As far as we are concerned, nothing less will satisfy at this stage – to adopt the usual “life in the tropics” response that all’s well that ends well would be to invite the next tragedy, perhaps with horrific consequences.

Barbadians need a full explanation of how these boats and their activities are policed, not just as a way of putting pressure on the owners and operators of such crafts, but so that those who use them for relaxation and pleasure also know what is expected of them.

It is still absolutely amazing that in an island as small as Barbados, such a huge proportion of the population can’t swim, but that is a reality. And many of these non-swimmers frequent vessels such as Boyceterous, Jolly Roger, MC Buccaneer and so many others, without ever a thought about what they would do in the event of an accident or some other unfortunate incident.

Given the track record of the operators of such vessels, it is not hard to conclude that the probability of disaster is extremely low, but yet it would be of value if patrons were required to “endure” a brief safety presentation before a vessel can leave the dock – as occurs every time a commercial plane takes off.

In a similar vein, we are sure passengers, if they stopped long enough to give it a thought, would feel safer if they were assured that all crew members were competent swimmers with some training or certification in sea rescue techniques. Unfortunately, it does appear that many of these workers also fall into the category of Barbadians who can’t swim.

We all know that many who take these cruises do so with the intention of letting their hair down and drinking as much as their bodies can take – in fact, more than they can handle. The photos on the Internet after such trips tell the story. But should we have regulations governing intoxication at sea?

If the law mandated one life vest for each passenger and you have 20 per cent of the passengers clearly drunk, or at best impaired from alcohol consumption, who is responsible for seeing they put on their vests in the event of an accident? What is the added liability to the operators if a passenger is killed or permanently injured in such a mishap if the drinks were served at the on-board bar by the boat’s bartender?

We also believe that the country also needs to be assured that our Coast Guard and the Marine Unit of the Royal Barbados Police Force attach as much seriousness to ensuring that these vessels are seaworthy as they do to boarding them in search of illegal drugs. The issue of overcrowding also needs to be policed with equal vigour.

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