10 November 2012

Tanzania: Marine Accidents Preventable, Experts Say

MARINE transport stakeholders have appealed for stringent measures for compliance with marine safety regulations, the move that can greatly prevent marine accidents.

Speaking at a stakeholders' Maritime Safety Workshop in Dar es Salaam, the participants cited weaknesses facing the industry and one of them being lack of advanced navigation charts. Contributors to the debate observed that majority of vessel operators especially in Lake Victoria functioned on the basis of experience only without regard to massive loss of life and property.

Engineer Thomas Mayagila, the Chairman of the Marine Classification Society of Tanzania, said lack of navigation charts exposed chances of marine accidents. "Use of navigation chart is a requirement that cannot be overstated. Operation of marine vessels must be precise and professionally carried out far from guesswork no matter how experienced a ship captain might be," Eng Mayagila observed.

He cited MV Bukoba accident in May 1996 that claimed nearly 1,000 lives, saying that even loading of cargo should be closely monitored. Marine Transport Consultant and Lecturer, Jovin Mwemezi said observance of safety aspects in marine transportation could best be achieved through concerted efforts among stakeholders in the public and private sectors.

"Safety regulations in maritime administration should also focus on proper ways of dealing with the aftermath of marine accidents, that includes rescue operations and good care of survivors," Mwemezi explained. Hussein Said from SS Bakhressa Group of Companies, also an enthusiastic marine transporter, said training of ship captains should suit the prevailing situation.

He said experience has shown that some of the ship captains currently operating marine passenger vessels were exclusively trained in the operation of marine tankers. "In case of marine accidents, some of them do not know what to do to help ill-fated passengers.

The training curriculum must include that part as well for the improvement of marine safety," Said advised Eng. Yasin Songoro who is also the Principal of the Marine College in Dar es Salaam, warned that investigation has revealed that some of the marine vessel operators had never attended any formal training for the profession.

"There are only five Marine colleges in Africa. These are found in Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Mozambique and Egypt. The deficiency in the continent is 83,000 personnel out of the present number 600,000 while the demand is growing day-by-day.

Safety regulations must be adhered to," Eng. Songoro explained The Director of Marine Zanzibar Port, Captain Hassan Makame Amir was pleased with the renewed cooperation between the Surface and Marine Transportation Authority (SUMATRA) and the Zanzibar Maritime Authority, saying that close monitoring of safety operation levels would help minimize chances of marine accidents.

Among ferry disasters that caused heavy loss and shocked the nation include the sinking of MV Skagit, end of June, this year in which 144 people died, the MV Spice Islander in September, last year killing 203 people and MV Bukoba in Lake Victoria in May 1996, killing over 1,000 passengers.

The causes of the accidents were cited as overcrowding, negligence by management allowing the vessel to sail despite the fact that initially not designed for sea faring and bad weather. Again, negligence, unprofessionalism, lack of accountability and corruption were cited as among the factors to blame for the sinking of MV Spice Islander.

The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) says, with its assistance, model safety regulations for inland waterways vessels and non-convention craft, including fishing vessels operating in Africa, were developed in 2001. Tanzania is among 12 representatives that signed the regulations.

Others are Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. IMO secretary-general Koji Sekimizu once said the organization was ready to assist Tanzania through its technical co-operation programme, but it would all depend on the country's decision.

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