Ferry tragedy

Jakarta to review safety of boats after fatal fire

Indonesian rescuers looking for bodies of victims of the Jan 1 ferry disaster.
Indonesian rescuers looking for bodies of victims of the Jan 1 ferry disaster.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Confusion over number of people aboard the ferry; 17 still missing

JAKARTA • Indonesia's government will review safety standards for sea transportation following the fatal ferry accident in Jakarta on Sunday that killed at least 23 people.

At least 17 people remained missing yesterday. Preliminary indications suggested that the ill-fated boat had design flaws even though it had passed safety tests.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi said his ministry would examine all safety check mechanisms on vessels, especially those operating in Jakarta Bay.

He said the ministry would revoke the permit of any vessel that failed to meet safety requirements.

Mr Mohamad Nail, the ferry's captain, has been detained and accused of negligence, said Senior Commissioner Hero Hendrianto Bachtiar, director of Jakarta marine police.

The Zahro Express ferry was carrying 184 Indonesian passengers when it caught fire on its way from Muara Angke in North Jakarta to Tidung Island in the Thousand Islands regency off Java, only hours into the new year.

The port master of Muara Angke has been sacked for "negligence in monitoring safety on the boat", the ministry's director-general (sea transportation) Tonny Budiono said in a statement on Monday.

The authorities are investigating how the boat caught fire before exploding after travelling roughly 1.6km out of the port. They are also probing allegations that the boat ignored safety procedures and carried too many passengers.

Confusion remained yesterday over how many people were on the ferry.

National Transportation Safety Commission (KNKT) marine accident investigation chief Aldrin Dalimunte brushed off speculation that overloading contributed to the accident. He said official documents showed that the boat could carry up to 285 passengers.

Jakarta police chief Mochamad Iriawan, meanwhile, said the number of passengers on board the ferry was 195, although the passenger manifest showed only 100 passengers.

Fatal maritime accidents involving overcrowded boats are not unusual in the Indonesian archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, as the country is heavily dependent on boats for transport and safety standards are lax.

In November, at least 54 people died after an overcrowded speedboat carrying three crew members and 98 passengers from Malaysia to Batam struck a reef and sunk.

Mr Aldrin said initial investigations indicated the Jan 1 fire was caused by a short circuit in the engine, which also generated power for the air-conditioning system. As the cabin was air-conditioned, the passenger cabin was sealed.

"There was only one way out, which was at the front of the vessel. And, yet, the door was very small and could only be passed through by one person at a time," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2017, with the headline 'Jakarta to review safety of boats after fatal fire'. Print Edition | Subscribe