There will be a greater focus on training for maritime administrators, ship inspectors and surveyors as part of efforts by Pacific Island countries and territories to improve domestic shipping safety and save lives at sea.

Agreement to improve the enforcement of standard operating procedures and adherence to international standards, or “PIMLaws”, were also among the outcomes of the Pacific Forum on Domestic Ferry Safety that concluded in Suva on Friday.

Co-hosted by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), the forum’s outcomes will be reported to a global conference on domestic shipping safety in the Philippines in late April 2015.

For many Pacific Island communities, domestic shipping is the only means of travel and trade – hardly surprising given the 22 Pacific community members are spread across 30 million square kilometres of the Pacific Ocean.

This places a major responsibility on regulatory authorities to ensure vessels operate in a sound, seaworthy condition, posing no danger to the lives of those on board.

According to the Director of SPC’s Economic Development Division, Captain John Hogan, domestic shipping in the Pacific faces complex, wide-ranging issues, such as political and commercial pressures, ineffective compliance and enforcement, and a lack of supply and servicing capability for machinery and lifesaving equipment.

“The increasing incidence of maritime disasters globally is a major concern, given the number of fatalities and scale of the direct and indirect costs to countries,” said Captain Hogan.

“It’s also a constant reminder to every one of us working in the industry why we cannot relent in examining and identifying risks associated with shipping operations, and designing strategies to manage these risks,” Captain Hogan said.

The Director of IMO’s Technical Cooperation Division, Nicolaos Charalambous, challenged the forum participants – comprising representatives of Pacific governments, development partners and the shipping industry – to set long-term targets for domestic travel safety standards.

“Backed by a moral imperative, the time has come to see tangible results materialising and real actions and results in the field, and IMO will continue to provide support in this respect,” Mr Charalambous said.

“The passenger is the same human being and the perils of the sea do not distinguish between international and domestic travel or the standard of safety a ship complies with,” he said.

The Forum concluded with joint acknowledgement of the 2012 Suva Action Plan as the platform underpinning efforts to promote and encourage a safety risk assessment and management culture at national and Pacific regional level, and its role in drawing attention to safety management challenges at the national level.

Recognising the importance of mitigating domestic ferry disasters, the IMO and SPC have a long-standing partnership working with Pacific Island countries and territories to improve legislative activity and enforcement.

The IMO has been assisting states to improve the safety of ships which are carrying passengers on non-international voyages for more than 10 years, Mr Charalambous said.

Media contacts:

Omirete Tabureka SPC Ship Safety Audit Adviser, [email protected] or +679 3379 341

Caroline Tupoulahi-Fusimalohi, SPC Research and Information Adviser, Suva, Fiji (Tel: +679 3379 281; email: [email protected])