Call to strictly enforce safety rules

The Malaysian authorities are calling for stricter enforcement on boats ferrying passengers in Sabah, following last Saturday's deadly incident.
The Malaysian authorities are calling for stricter enforcement on boats ferrying passengers in Sabah, following last Saturday's deadly incident.PHOTO: EPA

KOTA KINABALU • The Malaysian authorities are calling for stricter enforcement on boats ferrying passengers in Sabah, following last Saturday's deadly incident.

The boat was carrying 27 tourists from China and three crewmen when it capsized, with questions over the number of passengers the catamaran was allowed to carry.

Sabah's Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Pang Yuk Ming said on Sunday the Sabah government had ruled that catamarans could carry a maximum of 12 people, including the crew and skipper.

"A catamaran has a capacity of more than 30 passengers. However, the Sabah government limits the number of passengers for tourism purposes," he told reporters.

The minister also said the authorities are checking whether the catamaran had sailed from a jetty in Kota Kinabalu that is not intended for tourist trips to nearby islands.

He added they will check whether the vessel was registered in Sabah or elsewhere.

STIPULATED LIMIT

A catamaran has a capacity of more than 30 passengers. However, the Sabah government limits the number of passengers for tourism purposes.

SABAH'S TOURISM, CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENT ASSISTANT MINISTER PANG YUK MING, speaking to reporters.

Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said boat operators should equip their vessels with the necessary equipment such as a GPS tracking system and radio communication device, as well as making life jackets mandatory for every person on board.

"I also expect a thorough investigation into this mishap. We must do our utmost to prevent such incidents from happening," he said.

Police have detained the boat's owner, its skipper and another crewman for suspected negligence.

"Three people have died. We need to investigate all angles," said Sabah Police Commissioner Ramli Din.

Twenty Chinese nationals, the Malaysian skipper, 26, and a crewman, 38, were rescued from the seas off Sabah on Sunday evening.

Four of the tourists and one crewman were still missing yesterday evening.

The boat's owner, 44, was brought in yesterday by the police to help in the investigations.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a Facebook post that there would be an investigation into the incident.

"I take the Sabah boat capsize tragedy very seriously, and I want a thorough investigation to identify the cause of the incident," he wrote yesterday.

"However, for now, complete focus must be given to the search and rescue."

BERNAMA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 31, 2017, with the headline 'Call to strictly enforce safety rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe