Catching a ferry is a way of life for many people in Solomon Islands. To keep up with demands for both passengers and cargo, the local shipping industry is growing rapidly, both in size of vessels and the size of the fleet.
Keeping passengers, crew and cargo safe on the ocean waves is vital. For many Pacific Islanders, shipping is the main, and sometimes only, way to travel, with sea transport connecting remote islands and contributing to up to 90 per cent of trade.
To improve maritime safety in the domestic shipping industry, the Pacific Community (SPC) introduced the Pacific Domestic Ship Safety Programme (PIDDS) in 2010. So far, Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands have taken part. Around 45 shipping companies have been trained, with 67 vessels now operating under a safety management system.
Establishing a safety culture requires raising awareness of maritime safety and introducing rigorous safety management systems. ‘For the ship owner and the master of the ship, a disaster at sea means a never-ending legal battle for the owner and a possible jail term for manslaughter for the CEO and the master and the owner,’ said Patteson Arish Mane, a 40-year veteran of the shipping industry and Chair of the Solomon Islands Maritime Transport Association. ‘These are very powerful incentives for the ship owner and the master to be doing the right thing to ensure that the ship is seaworthy’, he said.
Getting safety right requires both properly fitted-out ships and a well-trained crew that thoroughly understand the required drills. In Solomon Islands, many vessels fall well below the tonnage to be covered by international mandatory safety standards. However, PIDSS has developed guidelines for domestic vessels to operate under a toned-down safety management system that matches their requirements.
Fire and boat drills must be conducted regularly. Crews must know their position onboard ship and what to do in the event of a fire or other emergency and how to assist passengers and crew to abandon ship quickly and safely. ‘These drills must become second nature to them as the life of the passengers in any peril at sea is in their hands’, Mr Mane said.
‘The perils of the sea do not differentiate between vessels engaged on international voyages and domestic vessels. It is all about enhancing and maintaining the safety of the crew and passengers on board, protection of the environment and prevention of damage to property, which is very vital to every water craft’, he said.
The Federated States of Micronesia, and Samoa, are also joining the programme in 2016, making a total of seven countries working to enjoy the highest standards of maritime safety. The programme is managed by SPC’s Economic Development Division.
- Crews practice fire and evacuation drills until it is second nature
- Safety requirements adjusted to suit needs of smaller ships
- Seven Pacific countries have joined the maritime safety programme