Regional passenger ferries to get better lifejackets in $800,000 MPA push to boost safety

Majestic Dream ferry chief engineer Abdurrahman Basuni wearing the new buckle-type lifejacket.
Majestic Dream ferry chief engineer Abdurrahman Basuni wearing the new buckle-type lifejacket. PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
 Buckle-type jackets are already implemented on ocean-going ferries.
Buckle-type jackets are already implemented on ocean-going ferries.PHOTO: LIN ZHAOWEI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Operators of regional passenger ferries will get help to install new easier-to-use buckle-type lifejackets, under a push by the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) to enhance passenger safety.

The authority announced on Monday (June 18) that it would commit about $800,000 to co-fund the upgrading of lifesaving equipment on MPA-licensed regional passenger ferries. Besides the new lifejackets, ferries will also be equipped with customised 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,” said MPA chief executive Andrew Tan at the launch of the 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 that the new buckle-type lifejackets were easier to use in an emergency and had additional safety features.

MPA said feasibility studies on the customised lifejacket receptacles and buckle-type lifejackets, which replaced 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 than string-type ones. Buckle-type jackets are already implemented on ocean-going ferries.

Mr Sebastian Koh, president of the Association of Regional Ferry Operators, said some ferry companies are still using string-type lifejackets, but added that these are compliant with Solas (Safety of Life at Sea) requirements. 

He said: “The new lifejacket is similar to what you have on an aircraft. It’s easy to wear and has a buckle, so people don’t have to struggle to tie a string.”

Mr Tan also announced that MPA would be using Geo-Targeting Text Messages (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 major festive seasons and the Kusu Island pilgrimage.

He said: "Marine incidents have decreased by more than 40 per cent between 2008 to 2017. In particular, the major incident rate has dropped by 70 per cent from 0.010 to 0.003 incidents per 1000 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."