The meeting follows the King Poseidon 959 tour boat being engulfed by a fireball from a suspected leaky fuel line on Jan 14, leaving dozens of tourists burnt by the blaze. (See story here.)
At last report, at least five people remained in intensive care still recovering from burns to as much as 30% of their bodies. (See story here.)
At the meeting on Saturday, Phuket Governor Norraphat Plodthong was joined by leading officials from the Marine Office, Marine Police, Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), among others.
However, it was Krabi Governor Aphinan Phuekpong who led the foray into marine safety, pointing out that about 500 tour speedboats were registered in Krabi and another 2,000-odd speedboats registered in Phuket.
Together, an estimated 1,500 speedboats ferried tourists to destinations in Phang Nga Bay, including Phi Phi Island, each day, he said.
Krabi Police Commander Maj Gen Bunthawee Toraksa, also present at the meeting, made his position clear.
“I would like all departments involved to be strict on checking the condition of the boats, captains and crews before any boat departs.
“If anything is not 100% ready, the boat must not leave,” he said.
Krabi Governor Aphinan announced a 10-point action plan to be brought into effect in Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga provinces to improve marine tourism safety, as follows:
- Unite all marine and tourism information from Phuket, Krabi and Phang Nga provinces, with tour operators providing the Digital Economy Promotion Agency (formerly known as the Software Industry Promotion Agency, or Sipa) the information to be uploaded online on a “marine tourism centre” website.
- Introduce ID wrist bands to track tourists and boat locations.
- Improve CCTV cameras at piers and the general condition of piers.
- Set up checkpoints at Phi Phi Island and other main tour boat piers where tour boats’ maintenance and condition can be checked every time before the tour boat departs.
- Be strict on checking tour operators, with any offending companies’ having their tourism business licences revoked.
- Check the condition of boat captains and crews in terms of drugs and alcohol.
- Set up special safety enforcement team with appropriate equipment to respond to incidents in time.
- Introduce a management system for boat parking at Phi Phi Island that will not bring harm to tourists or the environment, and remind speedboat drivers that they must adhere to their announced travel route.
- Set up marine safety training and educate captains and crews of the punishment by law breaking marine safety laws.
- Follow up by presenting this plan at the next meeting, to be held ni Phang Nga province.
Phuket Governor Norraphat, in his contribution to the meeting, noted, “The director of the Phuket Marine Office must collect details from tour boats departing from Phuket, including destinations, numbers of passengers, their nationalities and contact information in case of an accident in these three provinces.”