Batam ferry accident

Allow time for thorough investigation

I have read many negative comments about the Batamfast ferry collision ("Ferry from Batam hits floating object"; Tuesday).

Let us allow time for the authorities to investigate, bearing in mind that the incident happened in Indonesian waters, the ferry is Indonesia-flagged and the Indonesian crew carry professional licences issued by their maritime authority.

Hence, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore has very limited or no jurisdiction over matters.

We must be very thankful that all 104 passengers and crew were safely evacuated within about two hours to Nongsapura Ferry Terminal, some traumatised, but without any serious injuries.

The ferry operator, Batamfast, quickly activated two other ferries to aid in the rescue.

However, on realising that the water was too dangerously shallow for safety, several sampans were called upon, by Batamfast, to rescue all passengers successfully. 

The use of life rafts, as a soft-landing platform, for the ferry-to-sampan transfers, was the right decision at the scene, as the drop from ferry to sampan can be more than a metre, which is not easy or pleasant, especially for the elderly and the weak.

The efforts of marine engineer Abdul Alim to help bail out water, repair the faulty pump, act as interpreter and calm nerves in the chaotic situation are laudable.

We should not quickly doubt the competency of the crew.

The three life rafts, each with a capacity of 65, are more than sufficient and definitely not overloaded with 50 people in each.

There are many reasons for the life rafts to leak ("Panic grips passengers as life rafts take in water"; Tuesday and "Ensure robust probe into ferry incident" by Mr Ang Kheng Wee; yesterday).

Other than being deployed in poor and unsafe conditions, they could have been punctured by the adjacent shallow reef or perhaps sharp objects, like high-heeled shoes, when evacuees jumped onto the life rafts during the rescue process. 

In addition , the ferry concerned has an aluminium hull, similar to those in the Singapore registry.

Of course, in any accident, there are always lessons to be learnt - which a proficient investigator should uncover in due course.

Kevin Ho Kun Kok

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'Allow time for thorough investigation'. Print Edition | Subscribe