Safety fears rise as key Phuket boat tour facility Chalong Pier sinks again

Photo courtesy of Phuket News

In Thailand, Chalong Pier, a key Phuket boat tour facility is under scrutiny as concerns are being raised about the potential safety hazards it poses. The main pontoon, used by tourists to board tour boats, is reportedly sinking again and is visibly covered in rust.

The pontoon in question had previously gone under reparations last year when it started sinking. Officials then responded by welding patches over the areas rust had eaten into. However, this recent development now raises questions about the effectiveness of such measures.

A tour boat operator shared their frustration with this recurring issue with Chalong Pier, stating, “This is happening time and again. Not only is it unsightly for tourists to see when they board boats to head out on tours, but it is dangerous. The exposed rust poses a danger to their feet. They cannot even walk barefoot onto the boats.”

There is an apparent risk of a potential accident due to the sinking pontoon. “It may be sinking slowly now, but no one knows if the pontoon will just give way and sink,” the operator noted, expressing concern about the precarious situation travellers are being put in.

Explaining the issue, the operator said, “Like any steel boat in Thailand, the material used to build the pontoon is cheap steel from China. It rusts very quickly. When the pontoon is built is given a protected coating, but after two to three years it starts to rust inside… Then the rust starts to spread. You cannot see how much rust there is inside, so you do not know how much damage has been done.”

Criticism was aimed at the overall system of the marina being a mess, attributed to a low-quality choice of material – steel. The operator elaborated, “It is called an international-standard marina, but it is manufactured with the wrong, cheap steel. It is made to look good, but it is not working.”

As a solution, the operator suggested using aluminium in place of steel for constructing pontoons, albeit acknowledging the excessive cost it may involve. “The price is three to four times what it costs to make with the cheap steel, but it is good for 20 to 30 years. The big problem we have today is that if they just keep welding and repainting it, then the same problem will keep happening.”

In addressing the core issue of fixing the pontoon properly, financial challenges seem to be the main hurdle. The operator revealed, “It could cost anywhere from 10 million to 20 million (US$289,000 to US$577,000), and for that, local authorities will need budget approval from Bangkok. It will take time, and by next high season we might not have a safe secure pontoon at the pier… and that is a problem.”

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Phuket News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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