Safety at sea in the Pacific Islands region
Sunday, 27 June 2010
In almost all Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) small boats of less than 15 metres length provide the primary means of transport between the islands and are also used idely by the islanders for fishing.

The distances between some of these islands are quite large and often the voyages are undertaken in conditions unsuitable for these crafts. Boat crews are generally ill prepared for the task resulting in accidents, breakdowns and sinking, and yet most carry little if any safety equipment. Some of these voyages have become the focus of expensive search and rescue activities in the region estimated at between USD$5 - 8 million annually. The problem compounds when precious lives are lost needlessly.

However, it is heartening to note that some PICTs have taken proactive and bold steps through legislation, construction standards and enforcement mechanisms to address this issue and have almost eradicated this scourge. In the process they have exposed that safety at sea in the Pacific region is possible. Careful study of these member states has also revealed that their domestic fleet are well regulated and operated; again underpinning that maritime safety is possible in the Pacific.
Basically, sea safety is the ability of a vessel to safely complete a trip and return to its starting place. There are many aspects to sea safety which include factors such as boat design and construction, competence of the person in charge, safety/communication equipment, loading limits, alternate means of propulsion and weather condition.

Ironically, the factors highlighted above have been addressed by successful member states through generating political will at the national level, identifying individuals at the national level committed to sea safety, and increasing awareness of sea safety through training programmes and the incorporation of sea safety issues into related areas.

The key to safe seafaring starts with the ability to assess the risks before proceeding to sea and not just relying on certain components such as lifejackets.
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