Submarine firm woos authorities

PHUKET: The promoters of planned submarine trips for tourists last night made a bid to convince authorities that their machine is safe – and to persuade them to issue the necessary permits. The presentation by Phuket Submarine Ltd, at the Royal Phuket City Hotel, featured slides of the DS-48 sub that the promoters hope will be operating in the waters around Phuket by the end of this year. The company is seeking licenses to operate from November. A DS-48, which can carry up to 50 passengers underwater for an hour, will arrive in Thailand in September. The battery-powered sub can dive to a depth of 75 meters and has a maximum speed of 3 knots (about 6 kmh). Similar vessels are already operated by Phuket Submarine’s partner, Pacific Subsea Saipan Inc, in the waters off the mid-Pacific islands of Saipan and Guam. (See also ) Pacific Subsea Saipan’s general manager, Jack McClure, was in Phuket in June last year to talk with Governor CEO Pongpayome Vasaputi and other local government officials. Dokmai Island, near Maithon Island, is the likely destination for the sub, which will make about eight 40-minute trips a day, with passengers able to view their surroundings through large glass windows. The cost is expected to be US$55 (about 2,500 baht) per person. Four external cameras allow the pilot to track the sub’s path and a boat on the surface also keeps track of the sub’s position. Last night’s presentation and briefing at the Royal Phuket City Hotel was attended by local authorities and representatives of the Royal Thai Navy. Issue raised included the difficulty identifying which regulations apply to the underwater vessel, and its effect on the marine environment. Safety of passengers is also a concern, though the submarine’s builders say they have been operating for 15 years off the mid-Pacific islands of Saipan and Guam, without a single accident. Vice Admiral Pairoj Theerachai told the group: “When it comes to national security, there is no problem at all because the submarine will operate in one area, and not go anywhere else. “As for safety, it has a secure system, according to the certificates, including ones from the Environmental Protection Association [of Thailand] and the US Defense Department. “We will have a meeting and talk with the Phuket Harbor Master about how we are going to register the pilot. The existing regulations deal only with surface vessels, not submarines.” Surin Bomrungpol, Managing Director of Phuket Submarine said, “Deputy Prime Minister Somsak Thepsuthin has said he would like to support this [project] because Phuket has beautiful natural resources but still trails behind Singapore and Malaysia in terms of technology.”

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