Opinion: Change Phuket’s tired old safety script

PHUKET: The high season is well upon us and the Marine Department and related agencies are working hard to ensure tourist safety at sea.

Despite relatively calm conditions at this time of year, the highly-seasonal ‘feast or famine’ nature of Phuket tourism makes this a stressful period for those responsible for public safety offshore.

This is due primarily to the sheer number of people enjoying the many recreational opportunities available in our local waters. These guests need not only be catered to, but also kept out of each other’s way in order to avoid further expanding the wide variety of maritime tragedies that we have already experienced.

Monsoon season mishaps tend to follow sad-yet-predictable scripts: ‘…the overconfident foreigner entered the heavy surf despite clearly visible red flags’; ‘…the overcrowded speedboat left port despite official warnings about heavy seas’, and so on ad nauseum.

During the high-season, however, all the activity ensures that the old adage ‘anything can happen, and it usually does’ is more likely to apply.

Just as Phuket Airport this time of year needs to bolster human resources at Customs and Immigration checkpoints, so, too, should the Marine Department have increased staffing to help ensure that safety standards are maintained by the many ferry and speedboat operators who are operating at full-throttle this time of year.

Unfortunately, it is practically impossible for authorities to ensure that all of these are legally licenced and registered, let alone operating with responsible ‘captains’ working within required guidelines.

On a related topic, plans are in the works to dust off a Marine Department ‘taxi boat’ service to ferry passengers from Phuket International Airport to beach resorts on the island as well as locations in Phang Nga and Krabi.

We do not think that this is a long-term solution to the island’s traffic problem. It fails to consider what the experience would be like for the tourists – and is impractical in too many other regards to be listed here.

The traffic problem is the result of too many vehicles on our roads and related factors. Authorities need to address the root causes. The idea of forcing sleep-deprived, disoriented tourists and their luggage onto rocking ferries simply reflects how dire the traffic situation has become.

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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