Senator files maritime safety bill for seafaring passengers

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BACOLOD City – Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri filed Senate Bill No. 532, or the Maritime Safety Act, on 16 July 2019, a few weeks ahead of the Iloilo-Guimaras tragedy, where three boats capsized and killed 31 passengers.

“In a country where thousands travel on sea daily, it is crucial that companies should follow a high standard to ensure the safety of water transportation,” Zubiri said in a press statement sent to Daily Guardian here.

“There is a need to enhance the safety equipment and protocols utilized in sea transportation,” he further said.

Noting the country’s thriving port industry and exponential growth in seafaring activities as a developing economy, Zubiri also lamented the growing number of sea accidents. “There have been an influx of incidents at sea, yet safety measures still prove to be inadequate,” he stressed.

“While we provide the best seamen for international shipping, the country’s own history of maritime transport is marked by unsolved sinkings and accidents because of lax enforcement of laws and outdated safety standards. The tragedies of Doña Paz, Commando 6 and many other motorized bancas and the most recent in the Guimaras Strait should not happen anymore.”

The Maritime Safety Act will set stricter safety standards for the entire seafaring process, from the actual make of the vessels themselves, to the admittance of passengers, and to the emergency protocols to be carried out by crew members. Only ticketed individuals may be admitted to a vessel, and the Philippine Coast Guard will not clear any vessel that is over capacity, or any vessel carrying passengers other than those in the passenger list prepared and submitted by the ship officer to the relevant port authorities.

Vessels shall also be mandated to provide a number of life vests and lifeboats that exceed what is sufficient to accommodate the passenger load capacity, ensuring that passengers and crew members will not have to scramble for safety equipment in cases of emergency.

The Maritime Industry Authority shall be primarily responsible for enforcing the provisions of the bill, with assistance from the Philippine Coast Guard, who will be mandated to create a team dedicated to conducting vessel, passenger, and crew inspection before every departure.

“We should overhaul our maritime transportation standards and protocols to prevent accidents and disaster that destroy lives, properties and confidence in our maritime industry,” Zubiri concluded.