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Relieved tourists return to Phuket after a ferry almost sank in rough weather

Phuket Strandings Raise Questions About Marine Safety for US, China and Holiday Nations

Tuesday, May 28, 2013
News Analysis

PHUKET: More than 100 tourists from a ferry that failed to make the journey from Phi Phi to Phuket were returned safely to Phuket last night on a rescue vessel.

The ferry on which they'd hoped to return remained grounded on a rocky outcrop between the two well-known Thai holiday destinations.

Some officials will be saying to themselves: ''Nobody was hurt, nobody was lost. What's the problem?''

Wiser heads will be wondering why, for the third time in the space of a few short weeks, large numbers of tourists have had to be rescued after being stranded in forecast bad weather in the Phuket region.

Today's incident could not have come at a worse time.

The Chinese Ambassador visits Phuket tomorrow to discuss tourism safety. Today, the American warships USS Nimitz and the USS Princeton arrived off Phuket to allow more than 5000 US service personnel to begin enjoying shore leave.

One thing both the governments of the US and China have in common is their priority for the safety of their citizens.

Bot governments - along with many other nations - must now be reassured that the lives of their citizens are never going to be needlessly put at risk during a vacation in the Phuket region.

Last month, 450 tourists were stranded and had to be rescued by the Royal Thai Navy when local boat ''captains'' put to sea in forecast bad weather.

At the weekend, 100 tourists had to be rescued from a similar stranding off Krabi and 20 more were rescued after a capsize when Krabi ''captains'' put to sea in forecast bad weather.

While judgements have yet to be fully defined about yesterday's third-strike incident, it certainly appears as if the weather - triggering waves of four to five metres, according to the ferry's owner - may have been a good reason not to put to sea.

With more tourists visiting the Phuket region in the monsoon season, when storms are fickle and potentially deadly, safety and securing peoples' lives has to remain the Number One priority of the local tourism industry.

Serious measures must be taken to curtail the willingness of Phuket region boat ''captains'' to put to sea in bad weather.

The next incident may not produce such a positive outcome. At least one senior official is known to reject the need for Phuket's officials to meet regularly with Thailand's international envoys to discuss safety issues.

''Phuket has no problems,'' he is reported to have said. ''There is no need for meetings because all the problems have been fixed.''

Judging by the recent warning signs about marine safety, his view may need to be adapted.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


The ferry involved suggested to me a bigger version of the boats you see on the larger canals in Amsterdam.

The questions have to be asked:

"Are these ferries really fit for purpose in the open sea & in bad weather, specifically the SW monsoon (not the summer season TAT)?"

"Are the Captains qualified & certified to sufficiently high standard to be responsible for the lives of 100+ passengers?"

It is not only the Captains who should be qualified, there are international standards for other disciplines including the engineers on board, just as there are standards for inspection, certification & just ast importantly, maintenance.

"Are the authorities concerned applying international rules & standards (of which there are many) or is Thailand, & specifically the Phuket region ignoring such & applying local parochial (mediocre) standards only?"

As the article states, this is 3 major incidents (potentially serious) in a very short space of time & it is simply a matter of luck that nobody has been killed as a consequence.

For any official to make a statement such as "Phuket has no problems" does not inspire confidence that anything will change or improve any time soon.

Posted by Logic on May 29, 2013 13:05


can he explain what was done to fix all the problems,next to a few copies of the puketwan of the same old problems proving that the problems are ignored not fixed he's behaving like a bankrupt creditor decieving himself and his creditors to the final moment when phuket is deserted.

Posted by slickmelb on May 29, 2013 14:25

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