Ferry safety a priority for port authority this year

A multi-agency ferry evacuation exercise was conducted by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal yesterday.
A multi-agency ferry evacuation exercise was conducted by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal yesterday. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) will make the safety of regional ferries a priority this year, chief executive Andrew Tan said yesterday.

His announcement came on the back of the Sea Prince incident late last year, which affected close to 100 passengers, including 51 Singaporeans.

The Indonesia-registered ferry bound for Singapore struck a floating object and water entered its steering compartment.

While all passengers were eventually rescued, some raised concerns about the adequacy of safety measures, saying the life vests and life rafts did not work properly.

There was also miscommunication between the crew and passengers, giving rise to chaos and panic.

Mr Tan said the MPA has been stepping up inspection of regional ferries.

He said: "We will work with regional ferry operators to make sure that their vessels are in good working condition, the equipment operates and the crew are familiar with the emergency procedures."

The MPA held a safety exercise in the waters near Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal yesterday in which a ferry evacuation was carried out in a situation similar to the Sea Prince incident.

Crew from regional ferry operator Sindo Ferry practised a variety of evacuation drills. Passengers were first evacuated onto life rafts before being transferred to a rescue ferry via an MPA patrol craft - the scenario for a ferry in shallow waters. Others were transferred directly to a rescue ferry.

Over 150 personnel from eight agencies and companies were involved. Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Transport Josephine Teo observed the exercise.

The Indonesian authorities are leading investigations into the Sea Prince incident.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Ferry safety a priority for port authority this year'. Print Edition | Subscribe