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Tourists ride a monsoon pontoon pier at popular Racha, off Phuket

'Cowboy Captains' Breach Dive Safety

Saturday, July 27, 2013
PHUKET: Racha island, where many Chinese and Korean tourists go on day trips from Phuket, will not be safe until ''cowboy'' speedboat captains and guides are properly trained, a meeting heard this week.

Four tourists have drowned so far this year off the popular island with the duty of care shown by guides and captains questionable, the gathering was told.

''There are no lifeguards on the beach even though four tourists have drowned there this year,'' said Sarit Jandee, a member of Racha's protection and conservation group.

''There is no expertise in revival techniques and no clinic nearby. There is no capacity to react.''

The ''cowboy'' captains were young and more interested in fun than tourist safety, Khun Sarit said.

Many of them performed speedboat ''double donut'' spins in the water on arrival at Ao Tawan Tok bay, the most popular spot, often while there were divers in the water below.

Rip-offs and extortionate commissions were another problem, he said, with people who could barely swim being hired surfboards for which the guides each received 50 baht commission.

There were never any warnings about a dangerous rip capable of pulling tourists out to sea quickly, Khun Sarit said.

Guides also were paid 50 baht commission for each lounger hired by a day-tripper, Khun Sarit said.

''The most dangerous time for tourists is the free time, after lunch,'' he told the meeting at Rawai Council offices in southern Phuket.

''What are they doing? One guide may be left watching 60 people. The guides don't care for their guests.''

Tourists were also not permitted to take snorkels and masks from the speedboats so the guides benefitted again when tourists were forced to hire fresh sets on the beach.

In May, Chinese Ambassador Guan Mu warned Phuket authorities in a strong speech that safety must be improved. The previous day, a Chinese tourist died on a snorkelling trip off Pai island.

Little appears to have been done. Another Racha committee member, Kanchit Klingkib, drew attention to a posting on Facebook by Nick Fawcus-Robinson of ScubaNicks, who wrote about an incident on July 21:

''Not a happy bunny yesterday!!!! SMB (Surface Marker Buoy) sent up from 18mtrs . . . a few minutes later a speedboat decides to run over the balloon in Bay 2 Racha Yai. The driver briefly decelerates then speeds off again . . . This is dangerous, idotic, stupid, cowboy driving and utterly irresponsible.

''Am not so worried about the SMB . . . that is replaceable . . . but what if we had been making our final ascent!

''Rather than speedboats bashing dive companies . . .and dive companies blaming speedboats . . . is it possible to get authorities together to do something about this . . . and then have a genuine commitment for effective implementation.''

Vice Governor Dr Sommai Preechasin told the meeting that she would insist that Phuket Marine 5 organise proper safety seminars for speedboat captains.

She also said tourists must be provided with information about deadly rips. Clear deliniation of areas for speedboats and swimmers was needed, the meeting agreed.

Phuket Public Health authorities no longer release updates on drownings on and around Phuket. The last update was in April, 2012.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Mostly operating out of chalong no one in charge to check the cowboys, but these tours operating from there are at half price with overcrowded boats, but it is difficult to let understand the tourists why there is a big price difference. Most of them dont want to know why

Posted by Eric on July 27, 2013 19:00


There are only 2 Marine Training centres in Thailand with one in Samut Prakan (Government) and one in Pattaya (Private) and none on the Andaman Sea.

MERCHANT MARINE TRAINING CENTRE - 120 Moo 7, Soi Tessaban 6, Sukhumvit Road, Bangduan, Samut Prakan 10270 THAILAND Tel: 02 756 49 71/80 Website: FaceBook:

Chonburi 20230 THAILAND Tel: 038 042 011 Mobile: 086 377 71 98 Email: Website: Facebook:

Posted by Whistle-Blower on July 27, 2013 19:59


I personally witnessed a speedboat ride over divers' marking floats at Koh Racha Yai two weeks ago without ANY regard for the submerged human beings who scrambled for safety by diving lower to escape the propellers. When I expressed my outrage, the general reaction was a shrug of the shoulders and a 'it happens every day' comment.
I have a one-word, to-the-point question to the esteemed person in charge of water and sea safety here: 'Why?'

Posted by Sam Wilko on July 27, 2013 20:32


"Phuket's Speedboat 'Cowboy Captains' Accused of Safety Breaches on Racha Day Trips"
No truer words have ever been spoken. I have lost count how many times speed boats have zipped overhead, just a few meters from my diver down float (SMB). Today a speedboat went right over me and my divers. Properly trained captains watch for bubbles and divers and maneuver around them, but not speed boats. Then later another Nakon Marine speedboat, possibly the same one, went at full speed through bay one inside the wreck causing a huge wake while divers were climbing back up the ladder onto the dive deck. Every time I dive there I wonder how more people aren't killed by crazy, idiotic speed boats "captains".

Posted by NomadJoeDiver on July 28, 2013 00:17


Do they think a international divers flag bouy is a obstacle course to be played by speedboats,get these fools out of boats and off the waters immediately!

Posted by slickmelb on July 28, 2013 01:42

Wednesday December 8, 2021
Horizon Karon Beach Resort & Spa


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