THE government has threatened to institute strict legal and administrative actions against ship owners who are reportedly violating rules, regulations and standard procedures governing the shipping industry.
It has been discovered that some ship owners ventured into the business without enough capital thus violating safety precautions by overloading passengers and cargo to maximise profit whilst endangering lives.
The Director of Transport Safety, Security and Environmental Management in the Ministry of Transport, Ms Tumpe Mwaijande told the 'Sunday News' over the weekend that some of the ship owners also provide false information when registering their vessels.
"It has come to our attention that what owners claim in registration forms is not entirely true whereas in many cases vessels have less carrying capacity than claimed by owners," she said. What they have discovered, she observed, is that after purchasing the vessels, owners build more decks locally which ultimately do not meet the required standards.
Without naming names, she said her office has already issued a number of warnings to the suspect owners including imposing fines of between 10m/- and 40m/- depending on the size of the company's operations. Ms Mwaijande said that the government will no longer tolerate ship owners starting operations with insufficient capital thus prompting them to employ unqualified crew to operate their vessels.
"Ship owners must make sure that they are well financed before thinking on venturing in the business and once they enter the business they must ensure that they employ competent crew as required by international standards," she pointed out.
A Senior Official with the Surface and Marine Transport Regulatory Authority (SUMATRA), Captain Emmanuel Marijani said overloading is one of the main causes of many domestic accidents reported in recent years.
Captain Marijani called on ship owners and crew to comply with safety regulations as well as implement and maintain safety management systems. Undertaking regular maintenance of ships and vessels, training of crew and shore staff and implementation of Crew Agreements are among other measures that must be observed during marine operations.
"We have witnessed some accidents in recent years and many probe teams' reports have come out with findings that many ships employ crew without official contracts which is very dangerous to both owners and passengers," he said.
Captain Marijani mentioned some of the ships that caused massive losses of lives and properties as MV Bukoba which was registered to carry 422 passengers and crew members but when it capsized in 1996 it was reported to have been carrying over 2,000 passengers.
Even worse, he said, in recent accidents involving Mv Skagit and MV Space Islander, captains of the vessels had failed to even report the accidents as they were occurring, noting that captains must timely report when they encounter accidents.