Regional passenger ferries will be equipped with new easier-to-use buckle-type life jackets, under a push by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to enhance passenger safety.
The authority announced yesterday that it would commit about $800,000 to co-fund the upgrading of lifesaving equipment on MPA-licensed regional passenger ferries.
Besides the new life jackets, ferries will also have customised life jacket receptacles fitted under the seats to protect these jackets and allow easier passenger access.
"As part of MPA's commitment to safety excellence, we will be supporting regional ferry operators to upgrade critical lifesaving equipment on board," MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said at the launch of International Safety@Sea Week 2018 at Marina South Pier.
All MPA-licensed regional passenger ferries will be required to install these equipment by the end of next year. There are currently 58 of these passenger ferries run by eight different operators.
In his speech, Mr Tan noted that more than 6.5 million passengers travel via MPA-licensed ferries between Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia every year.
He said the new buckle-type life jackets were easier to use in an emergency and had additional safety features.
MPA said feasibility studies on the life jacket receptacles and buckle-type life jackets, which replace string-type ones, have started on nine ferries.
Results show that the buckle-type jacket is easier and faster to put on during an emergency. These jackets are already installed on ocean-going ferries.
Mr Sebastian Koh, president of the Association of Regional Ferry Operators, said some ferry companies are still using string-type life jackets, but added that these are compliant with Solas (Safety of Life at Sea) requirements.
"The new life jacket is similar to what you have on an aircraft. It is easy to wear and has a buckle, so people don't have to struggle to tie a string," he added.
Yesterday, Mr Tan also announced that MPA would be using Geo-Targeting Text Messages, or GeoSMSes, to broadcast safety messages to seafarers at different locations in the Port of Singapore. These include routine safety messages and special safety reminders during occasions such as festive seasons and the Kusu Island pilgrimage.
He said: "Marine incidents have decreased by more than 40 per cent between 2008 and 2017. In particular, the major incident rate has dropped by 70 per cent from 0.010 to 0.003 incidents per 1,000 vessel movements in the same period.
"While this is a significant achievement, there is no room for complacency and we must maintain our safety efforts."