Ensure robust probe into ferry incident

It has been reported that the life rafts deployed by the crew on board the Batamfast ferry had taken in water and were sinking ("Ferry from Batam hits floating object" and "Panic grips passengers as life rafts take in water"; both published on Tuesday). 

All ferry operators are required by regulation to carry serviceable life-saving equipment on board.

Depending on the ferry's passenger load capacity and purpose, the type and amount of life-saving equipment may vary.

However, operators must ensure that the life-saving equipment they carry is operational during contingencies.

In the Batamfast ferry incident, it is unacceptable that the life rafts' serviceability was found wanting.

Thus, aside from the investigation into why the ferry was not able to avoid the floating object that led to the collision, the authorities also need to focus their attention on why the life rafts were not serviceable.

Key issues, such as improper maintenance by the servicing agent or the operator not sending the life rafts for regular servicing, need to be addressed by the authorities.

The aviation industry has a very robust, transparent and open investigation and follow-up framework in response to any incident, whether major or minor.

The maritime industry should, likewise, ensure that lessons learnt from investigations are followed up on, to prevent a recurrence.  

We were lucky that in this latest incident, all 97 passengers - including 51 Singaporeans - emerged safe.

Ang Kheng Wee

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2015, with the headline 'Ensure robust probe into ferry incident'. Print Edition | Subscribe