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Phuket Dive Company Releases Details of Boat Holing, Beaching

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
PHUKET: A timeline of events on a Phuket dive boat that became holed and was beached to prevent a sinking has been released by one of the Phuket dive companies involved.

A British diver on the vessel has already raised several issues about safety on board and says she still intends to contact the British embassy in Bangkok and Padi to express her concerns.

In an email attachment addressed yesterday to ''All agents and colleagues,'' Narong ''Mr. Tea'' Chaimo, the well-regarded General Manager of Kamala Dive Center, writes:

This is a report of the events that occurred on May 4 2012 from Kamala Dive Center which resulted with the beaching of the boat Prapis 7 on Koh Keaw.

The Parapis 7 boat is a rented vessel from Aloha, the captain and three boat crew are also from Aloha. The captain personally has over 30 years of experience as a captain, each of the boat crew has a minimum of five years experience being out at sea.

The boat was rebuilt after the [2004] tsunami, it was last on dry-dock for major repairs from mid July 2011 to mid August 2011.

All necessary safety equipment was on board; 45 life jackets, emergency oxygen and medical kit. The captain's cabin is equipped with sonar, compass and radio.

The time-line is an as close as possible account to actual events described by the crew, staff and captain.

The Time-line of Events

09:00 All six customers, five staff, captain, cook and three boat crew board Prapis 7 at Chalong pier. The boat leaves for Phi Phi.
12:10 Prapis 7 arrives at Koh Bida Nok for the first dive.

13:10 The divers are picked up and lunch is served.
14:10 Second dive at Phi Phi Ley.
15:10 The divers are picked up and the boat leaves for Chalong pier.
16:00 One of the crew discovers water in the engine room. He finds that the bilge pump is not working and tries to repair it.
16:20 The pump is repaired but water is still leaking in. A crack is discovered on the starboard side at the bow of the boat. The crack is approximately 10cm x50 cm.
16:30 The captain and crew notify the Thai Royal Navy, Marine Police, Speed Boat Operators, near by dive boats and all other relevant parties.
16:35 All customers are moved up to the top deck and given life jackets. The captain decides to beach the boat at Koh Keaw.
17:00 The boat is beached on the west side of Koh Keaw.
17:30 A local dive boat (Andaman Ocean Safari) arrives at Koh Keaw to assist. The crew and staff from both boats assist in the transfer of customers from Prapis 7 to the assisting boat both in the water and out. The distance between the two boats was approximately 100m.
17:45 All 6 customers plus staff are safely on board the assisting vessel. The assisting vessel head towards Chalong.
18:30 The assisting vessel detours to help another boat at Koh Doc Mai.
19:30 The assisting vessel arrives at Chalong pier, customers are transferred to their respective hotels.

Current situation
Approximately 70 percent of all equipment and tanks have been recovered from the boat. Maintenance is on going, the boat will be recovered within the next few days and brought to dry-dock.
The staff are busy working on our new branch in Kata.

Future plans
For the moment Kamala Dive Center will not be running a day-trip boat for at least one month. We will still take on courses and customers. It is not yet decided weather Prapis 7 will be the boat for future day-trips.
We would like to thank all that were involved in the events of 04.05.2012; Andaman Ocean Safari, the Thai Marine Police, Thai Royal Navy. All others that are too many to list. Thank you for your thoughts and support throughout this incident.
We will keep you appraised of any changes.

Narong Chaimo (Mr. Tea)
General Manager, Kamala Dive Center.

British tourist and diver Wendy Bain, who told on Saturday of her concerns as the boat took water, was sent the time-line by Phuketwan. She responds:

''It's a pretty accurate account, there are a few discrepancies.

''I didn't know the blige pump wasn't working. The crew and our dive master were excellent at evacuating us and I thank them for that but a broken pump and a crack in the side - I was told a part of the boat had broken off?!

''In fact, I and my husband were the only divers above deck, all the rest were below.

''The waves were quite high and the boat was being thrown and tossed. I heard air cylinders banging and clanking hard - I think one may have come lose.

''Seconds later a huge bang, then the captain came out and looked out over the side of the boat and immediately made a phone call. The other crew members came up from below and did the same.

''I knew we were in trouble because of their faces, and the boat was tilting.

''When we had the dive briefing, there was no information on where the life jackets were, oxygen - flares etc. In other countries I've dived they always give this info, as well as where the life buoy is.

''There should be some life jackets on the upper deck as well - all of theirs were in the 'basement' of the boat.

''Not sure if I agree with there being all those life jackets - if so, why was our dive instructor Qui wearing one with the polystyrene blocks falling out of it and the front clip fasteners ripped off it?

''Maybe ask her. Qui also told me this boat was used for nine years and that there was no life raft as it 'created drag'.

''Neither Sharkey Scuba (our dive master) or Kamala Dive has contacted us since the ordeal to ask if we have any questions about what happened. My husband and I were disappointed with Sharkey Scuba and are still awaiting reply from them.

''I still think that this boat was not fit for purpose - long trips to Phi Phi - and that we were fortunate there was so few of us on board that day.

''We won't be coming back to Phuket and I will not be recommending diving here.''

Khun Tea's time-line is useful. All parties agree the crisis was handled expertly by the captain and crew, and that the rescuers did an excellent job.

What's surprising is that, given the drama of the event, there was no immediate debriefing for customer-divers afterwards, and, it appears, no contact at all since.

At least one other dive boat experienced difficulties between Phi Phi and Phuket and required assistance in Friday's storm.

Dive company employees on Phuket expect sudden squalls at this time of the year and are conditioned to handle them. But tourist divers do not put to sea on holiday outings thinking that their trip will become dangerous.

Divers visiting Phuket probably need to be better informed and at the very least, warned that weather forecasters are unable to accurately predict the behavior and strength of all Phuket monsoon-season storms.

Comments

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This is from the United States Government's Website warning travellers coming to Thailand. Google it yourself. Google 'dive boat sinks Phuket' and see how many recent dive boat sinks/rescues come up. YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR BOATS! Is this what you want Phuket diving to be known for???

'Boat Safety: Boat safety is a concern in Thailand. Ferries and speedboats used for transport to and from the many islands off the Thai mainland and along rivers are often overcrowded and do not carry sufficient safety equipment. Several years ago, three US citizen tourists died when the overcrowded speedboat they were in capsized and sank off the coast of Koh Samui. Three months later, two US citizens narrowly escaped death when their dive boat sank off the coast near Phuket. Avoid travel on overcrowded boats and ensure that proper safety equipment (including life preservers) is available before boarding any boat or ferry.

I will be contacting the British Embassy to do the same and inform all British Travel agents to warn visitors to be aware - even if it's expat diving schools. And speaking to Padi to see if something can be done from them about Padi diving schools using unsafe boats. Come on diving community, you help ensure your own and clients safety - you hire the boats. You are who visiting divers put their trust in. There's already been a program made in Austrailia about the Dive Asia boat where six people were drowned, warning tourists about your conditions there. How much more bad publicity do you want ruining your businesses - next time it could be you or your family! There's a problem - how do you make it better? What do you need?

Posted by Wendy on May 8, 2012 11:44

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Big credit to all the staff and crew of all boats involved, lets not forget that but for their swift action the outcome could have been a lot worse, glad everyone is safe, sorry for the customer not wanting to come back to our beautiful island, hope she can change her opinion soon. Hope to see Kamala back on the high seas soon. There but for the grace of God.

Posted by GazB on May 8, 2012 12:10

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The big storm in Phuket, on Friday 04 May 2012, was known well in advance as we have different websites to give accurate information up to one week ahead about wind speed, swell height, swell period and latest pressure chart so they are no excuse for any dive bot operators and captains to wait to be in dangerous situation to blame bad luck and other circumstances to save the face.

In that nearly sinking dive tour boat accident and other dive boats in difficulty during that day, we may be able to nail what is going wrong since so long time in the dive industry and tourism in Phuket: corruption and breach of duty by many governmental administrations at all levels of civil servants letting greedy opportunists, Thais and foreigners alike, to get official legal documents in illegal way through bribes paid by unscrupulous lawyers and accounting offices.

Fierce competition, to grab too few customers for too many dive centers and dive boat operators, is bringing most of dive boat operators to fill up their daily dive boats at any cost to keep the head off the water.

Since few years, many foreigners working as dive instructors have set up dive companies to have work-permits, have websites selling dive tours in Thailand and abroad with payments by PayPal of bank transfers to oversea to avoid to pay taxes in Thailand.
Most of them do not employ 4 Thai staffs per work-permit as required by the law but in fact those foreigners have fictitious Thai employees, fictitious 51% of Thai shareholders and never have the 2M Baht in asset or cash in the company to protect creditors in case of bankruptcy.

Today Phuket Province has more than 500 dive companies officially registered with TAT Registration Office but in fact less than a dozen of dive companies own their dive boats with full-time Thai staffs.
Now, many large dive companies ask their freelance dive instructors to set up their own dive companies in order to employ them at full-time as dive instructors or to staff their dive centers for sales, maintenance and booking customers at the expense of Thai dive centers employing Thai people for the same purposes.
Today many Thai staffs are only low-paid employees in foreign-operated dive companies with no chance to be at managerial positions.
It is easy to check it by going to Chalong Bay to visit dive centers and by being at the Chalong Pier early in the morning when all divers, boat crew and dive instructors are boarding dive boats.

2015 is coming fast and a lot of problems according to setting up companies in Thailand.
Thailand will have to change its laws to suit the status of ASEAN countries before 2015:
- January 1, 2011: ASEAN investors may hold only a maximum 51% of total shares in a Thai company.
- January 1, 2013: ASEAN investors may hold only a maximum of 70% of total shares in a Thai company.
- January 1, 2015: ASEAN investors may hold only a maximum of 100% of total shares in a Thai company.
- January 1, 2020: Non-ASEAN investors may hold only a maximum of 70% of total shares in a Thai company instead of a 49.9% at the moment.

So a full investigation by the Thai administration should be done to control the dive industry in Phuket before it is too late.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 8, 2012 12:45

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W-B - I must congratulate you on the excellent post. Very factual and no doubt true but in parts, in my opinion, you are "sailing close to the wind", with your allegations.

Posted by Amazed in Thailand on May 8, 2012 15:18

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Whistle-Blower,

Are you not the guy that used to spam all the dive centers with your rants.

Were you the one that was behind trying to force all dive centers to become CMAS as a requirement of being a member of TDA.

I think you are the one that has previously said that the number of dive shops / boats / divers should be limited and given to dive shops based on years in business - not standards or other qualifications (except ones that benefited yourself). Obviously putting you at an advantage in all the above.

This latest rant has the theme that the dive companies & staff should be Thai.

Kamala Dive Center is "The Local Thai Dive Team" - Thai owned and operated.

Thai Management and staff, whom up until the unfortunate incident have been doing a pretty good job. I am sure they will re-build and come back strong again.

Was the accident an accident or negligence, we may never know since there is no real form of investigation. Speculation is the only tool of the uninformed.

If you are really ready to lead the charge for transparency in the system?

Lay out your cards.

Perhaps many dive instructors here are supporting Thai families any way they can with the limited opportunities presented to them in the form of legal work. Maybe we should all open bars instead - that seems to benefit the community...

Perhaps the foreign dive instructors who pay all the fees to form companies and get all the legally required documentation are doing so because they can make so much more money here in Thailand... Mmmphh sorry, almost choked on the sarcasm.

Yes, this is a rant about a rant.

I for one am just tired of reading your rants.

Posted by Ty on May 8, 2012 22:38

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@Mr Ty's comments
Forums are open to all and Phuketwan does it best to let different opinions to be published which is democracy.
Now, it is up to you to read or not my comments.

Ty's comment: Were you the one that was behind trying to force all dive centers to become CMAS as a requirement of being a member of TDA.

Answer: Ministry of Tourism & Sports of Thailand took control of TDA Diving Association (Thailand) few months ago by replacing TDA European Directors by Thai directors in order to have a true Thai association to help Thai people and promote and have full control of the dive industry in Thailand.
That longtime planned strategy is to be able to control influx of foreigners in the Thai dive industry after the ASEAN treaty which will be in full force on January, 1st, 2015.

Ty'Comment: I think you are the one that has previously said that the number of dive shops / boats / divers should be limited and given to dive shops based on years in business - not standards or other qualifications (except ones that benefited yourself). Obviously putting you at an advantage in all the above.
Answer: Today, any Thai and foreigner alike is able to open a dive company in Thailand and too many opportunists take the advantage in order to make money at he expenses of safety.
It is wellknown that most of Thai civile servants want to limit the number of divers such as PMBC (Phuket Marine Biological Center), National Park Division and most of marine biologists in reputable Thai Universities.

Ty' comment: This latest rant has the theme that the dive companies & staff should be Thai.
Answer: By the law, all dive companies must have a majority of Thais Shareholders (51% for services & 70% in case the companies own their dive boats). Also it is compulsory to have four Thai people per work-permit (two in case the foreigner is married with a Thai spouse).
In my opinion, TAT should make compulsory that a dive center should have a legal Thai Instructor with university degree as the fully responsible person by the law in case of wrongdoings by the dive company as foreigners may fled Thailand in case of baddly managed dive accident or bankrupt.
Note that many Thai people are PADI, SSI or TDA/CMAS Instructors with good university backgrounds.

Ty's comment: Kamala Dive Center is "The Local Thai Dive Team" - Thai owned and operated.
Answer: In my comments, I never mention any particular dive company. My comments are my personal opinions and visions of the dive industry in Thailand but in fact I support Thai business first instead of a fully 100% foreign-operated business which is illegal in Thailand.
Look at all dive shops in Chalong and on day dive boats and you will see only foreigners in charge of divers.

Ty's comment: Perhaps many dive instructors here are supporting Thai families any way they can with the limited opportunities presented to them in the form of legal work. Maybe we should all open bars instead - that seems to benefit the community...
Answer: Many foreigners have Thai girlfriends but just a few have are legally married with Thai spouses and have children with their Thai spouses. If a foreigner is sincere with Thailand, he should make more effort to be integrated in the Thai society or accept to be a second-class foreigner with no right.
When you are legally married, it is very easy to get work-permit and have a long-term visa.

Ty's comment: Perhaps the foreign dive instructors who pay all the fees to form companies and get all the legally required documentation are doing so because they can make so much more money here in Thailand...
Answer: Most of foreign instructors get legal documents (Company & Work-permit) by illegal way as most of them do not employ 4 Thai staffs per work-permit as required by the law but in fact those foreigners have fictitious Thai employees, fictitious 51% of Thai shareholders and never have the 2M Baht in asset or cash in the company to protect creditors in case of bankruptcy.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on May 9, 2012 09:48

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@ WB

You wrote " If a foreigner is sincere with Thailand, he should make more effort to be integrated in the Thai society or accept to be a second-class foreigner with no right."

No matter what you do here, as a foreigner, even as one of the VERY few naturalized ones, you will always be a second class person in Thailand.

Go ask a few Thai born "khaek" how they feel about this. Plenty of them on Phuket.

Subjective impressions aside, reading Thai law quickly confirms this to be official policy.

There isn't and never has been equal opportunity and rights for foreigners in Thailand.

Even for a foreign woman marrying a Thai man. They get a lot more rights than a foreign man marrying a Thai woman and it's all written down in Thai law.

How do you reason this difference between genders in front of the law ?

Posted by Steve C. on May 9, 2012 11:37


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