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Sloshing around Phuket, with the water rising everywhere

Phuket Dive Company Says: Storms Won't Stop Us Going Out

Thursday, June 7, 2012
Today's UPDATE

The road outside HomePro in the southern Phuket region of Chalong - Chao Fa Road West - became impassable to motorcycles and saloon cars because of flooding as heavy rain lashed Phuket today. The Bureau of Meteorology expects the monsoon system to keep dumping on Phuket and other provinces until next Tuesday or Wednesday.

Traffic chaos means tourists headed for the Phuket International Airport will need to allow at least twice the normal travelling time. Those arriving can expect an indoor holiday.

Original Report

PHUKET: At least one Phuket dive company planned to venture out today in savage monsoon conditions despite safety warnings from the Phuket Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation, the Bureau of Meteorology and other bodies.

Today's forecast is for storms over 80-90 percent of Phuket, with wind gusts up to 45kmh and waves up to three metres - four metres off Phang Nga, north of Phuket.

Although advised that small boats should not put to sea from Phuket or along the Andaman coast, the Phuket dive company sent the following email yesterday:

''Dear Friends and colleagues,
We like to inform you, that we are confirmed tomorrow. Due to weather condition around Phuket, our scheduled dive site will be around Coral island or similar in the area of Chalong Bay. We will be leaving Chalong Pier at 8am and estimate to be back around 12-1pm after our two dives. Your net price is 1100 THB for students, 1550 THB for divers and 1180 THB for snorkelers. Let us know before 21.00 tonight if you like to join us. Have a great evening . . ..''

Other dive company operators were aghast that a dive company would venture out, even close to the Phuket coast. Severe monsoon gusts are battering Phuket and the Phuket region.

''It's just incredible that this would happen,'' a dive firm caller told Phuketwan yesterday as winds of up to 45 kmh toppled Phuket billboards and trees and floods and electricity outages struck all parts of Phuket.

''Safety should always be the prime concern,'' said the caller, who wished to remain anonymous. ''It's up to individual firms to make the choice but to venture out in this weather . . . that's asking for trouble.

''Under the water there's probably very little difference, but the experience above the water in these conditions would not be fun at all.''

Some firms in the Phuket dive industry have advocated establishing a harbormaster system where all small boats are obliged by regulation to not venture out in dangerous weather.

Heavy rain and strong winds doused Phuket again overnight and this morning, with the winds at their strongest at 8am - just as the dive boat voyage was scheduled to begin.

Emergency workers were again busy restoring power and there were traffic jams in Phuket City attributed to local floods and lack of traffic lights at some intersections.

Flooding was affecting Phang Nga and Ranong, the provinces north of Phuket, and two people died when a tree toppled over in Trang, south of Phuket.


Comments have been disabled for this article.


Only a fool does not fear the Sea !

Posted by Bjarne on June 7, 2012 09:14


Please name and shame this dangerous and irresponsible dive company so I will know who NOT to recommend to friends and guests. This is purely money ruling over safety. Unbelievable in these conditions(??!!)

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 7, 2012 09:19


Going to Coral Island will be very, very safe. But it won't be a nice day out on the sea.

Posted by stevenl on June 7, 2012 09:40


Or possibly it was a generic email that is routinely sent out to clints every eve before scheduled dives?
Seems to be another leap - to - possibly - false conclusion headline.

Posted by Media Watcher on June 7, 2012 09:47

Editor Comment:

Oh yes, people in the dive industry call us every day to highlight spam. Is there a Media Watcher Watcher? You need one.


Give your readers the name of the dive company, they should be named and shamed, they are obviously driven by greed and not safety, it would be great diving conditions with about 2 metres visibility.

Posted by coxo on June 7, 2012 09:51


Waiting, waiting for the inevitable news..''dive boat goes down!!''

Not our fault ' says operators..etc,etc
Money rules as usual ...

Posted by davidj949 on June 7, 2012 10:00


I agree with the article and TAT should investigate those putting life of tdivers (Tourists) at risk for just making money.

Shame on that dive company which all dive center know as that dive center has sent a junk-mail to all dive center and tour-operators.

Definitely, Harbor Department should put in place the same system we have in Europe about closing departure from port in case of bad weather.

Posted by Whistle-Blower on June 7, 2012 10:09


It's not so much of a problem with the weather, as it's quite local and fairly sheltered. The fact is if they were to suffer an engine problem, which are common enough, there would be no one else around to assist them. That's when an inconvenience becomes a nightmare. It's pure greed over safety.

Posted by Anonymous on June 7, 2012 11:42


I agree with Hugh Jarse - name and shame and put them out of business. This is totally irresponsible and goes to show that lives take a back seat compared with making money.

Posted by Graham on June 7, 2012 12:09


Was thinking this morning a list should also be made of any boat trips going out.

Yes at least give us a hint who the dive company is!

Posted by Vfaye on June 7, 2012 12:22


What needs watching is PW sensationalistic headlines that jump to conclusions to draw hits- a 'la bogus tsunami " warnings " based on watches and BS rape confessions for which you have yet to issue a retraction for or even explanation as to why that story was yanked.

Posted by Media Watcher on June 7, 2012 14:00

Editor Comment:

We haven't yanked any story, and we have covered all rape cases lately with the greatest of accuracy. You are pretentious and thick, Media Watcher. You can't even keep track of your own comments. I am through wasting my time. Goodbye.


Why are everyone so upset with this? Boat goes out almost everyday, all year around. I have been diving a few times during the monsoon in Phuket during holidays and find the boats very good. They can take the rough sea. 3 to 4 m waves is nothing, really. And if I remind it right, Coral island is in chalong bay, then it shouldn't be any problems. Keep up the diving in the Andaman sea

Posted by En full n??ve med bl?? b??r on June 7, 2012 16:21


Do the fools calling "no problem" know anything about weather and ocean conditions.? Today we had a confused sea, combination of 8 second period ocean swell and wind waves.Wave size at sea was between 2 and 3 metres .Winds were pushing 40 Knts with wind sheer gusts similar to the kind that brought down the One Two Go aircraft. Sure there would be intervals offering less danger, but to suggest a dive tour would be anything but safe is a risk not worth contemplating.Im not privvy to the dive industry insider knowledge and I really would like to know who is offering these bookings, for future reference.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 7, 2012 18:17

Editor Comment:

How wonderful it would be to read the unsolicited endorsements of the passengers who were invited out today.


#Ed: Have you seen what the combination wave-action, tide and wind did to Surin Beach today??

# En full o'kee....: " 3to4 metre sea is nothing"
What??!!Your idea of wave size judgment is obviously different to mine.You deservedly should have gone out today for a fun experience. You are either a representative of the irresponsible dive company concerned, or you are an ill informed accident waiting to happen.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 7, 2012 20:11


let em go out they wont have any passengers, be the kind of company with no life jackets no flares and staff steal the fuel which they will report as engine problem at sea not our fault.

Posted by traveller on June 7, 2012 22:01


"Do the fools calling "no problem" know anything about weather and ocean conditions.?"
Do you know Coral Island is inside Phuket Bay, sheltered all the way from the pier to the divesite and back? Not even 50 cm waves there with the weather we experienced?
While I would not recommend the company or trip to my guests for several reasons, dangerous it will not have been.

Posted by stevenl on June 9, 2012 14:57

Editor Comment:

An unequivocal warning is issued for small boats to stay ashore and one dive company is arrogant enough to imagine they have a licence to defy fate. The message is plain to divers and snorkellers: this firm does not put safety first. Kid yourself all you like.


Yes Mr. Steveni certainly I am well aware of the location of Coral Island.
I stand by my assertions regarding fools.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 10, 2012 13:14


The dive boat going to coral island is a non-story. Unfortunately the lack of knowledge by both the PW staff and commenters, particularly Hugh Jarse and Media Watcher, has led to some very uneducated comments and given a very inaccurate description of the situation. No one that understands how protected Coral Island is or why it is used during high surf days would have any of the concerns expressed here. You could practically swim there from Chalong pier. It's 100% safe year round which is why the dive shop had no problem openly stating they were going there. They were clarifying that they were not doing something dangerous by trying to make it out to Racha with the huge swells and wind. Good'on em. The only reason other boats aren't going there is because it's a boring dive site. But no reason why dive students couldn't be taken there for courses.

Posted by Joe on June 10, 2012 18:29

Editor Comment:

Odd how the promotion for the trip included prices for not just students but ''1550 THB for divers and 1180 THB for snorkelers'' as well. I guess the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the Meteorological Bureau should amend their danger warnings for all small boats along the Andaman coast to add ''except for xxx xxxx going to Coral Island.'' If the diving is so poor, is it just a rip-off?


"Odd how the promotion for the trip included prices for not just students but ''1550 THB for divers and 1180 THB for snorkelers'' as well" -Ed

Not really. Granted it's not the ideal location, but it is a legitimate dive site. Just not as much to see as at the Racha's or the other dive sites towards Phi Phi. Here is one "brochure" entry, perhaps a bit gilded: "It's not called Coral Island for nothing; the snorkeling off Banana Beach is thrilling and if you go out far enough from Long Beach you will also have a lot to discover, at its impressive coral reef."

"I guess the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the Meteorological Bureau should amend their danger warnings for all small boats along the Andaman coast to add ''except for xxx xxxx going to Coral Island.''" -Ed

No amendment needed. Coral Island isn't in the Andaman Sea, it's in the Phuket Sea. A small craft warning for the Andaman Coast does technically apply. (I'm not suggesting it's entirely ignored either)

"If the diving is so poor, is it just a rip-off?"

Properly trained divers understand that conditions dictate dive site choices. They in fact expect it.

If the dive shop had not sent the email informing the customers of the change of dive site knowing full well they would be going to Coral Island and not Racha Yai, then yes it would have been.

Also, according to the boat owning dive shop in question's website, 2900B is the retail cost of a 2 dive day at Racha. The prices in the email appear to be discounted, but it is hard to say as these are the "cost" prices the boat owning shop is charging the booking shops, not retail prices. The shop's "cost" prices you published from the email are considered confidential. It was unprofessional of you to publish them.

Posted by Joe on June 10, 2012 23:42

Editor Comment:

Confidential prices for customers, in an email circulated around Phuket to agents and other dive companies? Pricing that is somehow more important to you than passenger safety? Denials of reality? Joe. How . . . professional of you. Some dive companies have a higher regard for safety than brochures. Your argument is with the dive companies who put safety first.


Ed, you have successfully muttled my points into several cleaver sounding quips.

"Pricing that is somehow more important to you than passenger safety? Denials of reality?" -Ed seem to have very inductively reasoned your way to that conclusion. stevenl, Anonymous, and I seem to be the only ones that understand the "reality" of the situation. My comments about you posting the contents of a business email the sender of which has a certain expectation of privacy had nothing to do with the issue of safety. The separate point I was making relative to safety was that Coral Island isn't an inherently unsafe dive site during westerly monsoons. I never even implied "pricing was more important that safety."

"Confidential prices for customers, in an email circulated around Phuket to agents and other dive companies?" -Ed

As I explained before, the prices in the email are not customer prices, they are the cost to be paid by the booking dive center. The customer pays more than this. Yes, they are confidential just like in every other retail or service oriented business in the world. No company wants their mark-up publicized.

"Some dive companies have a higher regard for safety than brochures." -Ed

Again, fusing different comments addressing different points. My "brochure" quote was strictly in reference to your rip-off comment, not about safety.

Safety is of the utmost importance but in developing countries it often clearly isn't. Sadly, at times, neither is honest, thorough reporting. When you point your editorial crosshairs towards a claimed safety issue where there isn't one, it dilutes the debate and does a greater disservice to all of us in the industry that are trying to address legitimate safety concerns.

The company in question has had safety issues in the past, but this had nothing to do with that. I would wager that whoever put you on to this story has an axe to grind with them (would be many) because under scrutiny the claims just don't hold any water. You could poll 100 dive shop owners and veteran Phuket instructors and they would agree. Westerly monsoon conditions don't make it unsafe to dive Coral Island.

I just realized that I meant to name Whistle Blower in my first comment, not Media Watcher. My apologies MW.

Posted by Joe on June 11, 2012 08:12

Editor Comment:

Your accusation of unprofessional conduct would earn a law suit from some people, Joe. Throwing around personal comments of that kind is best not done foolishly without fully understanding the consequences. In any case, it's an attempt at diversion by you to cover up the real issue. So far your presentation of the case for putting to sea in weather deemed dangerous by the experts is lame and unconvincing. As I said, your argument is with the dive companies who obeyed the good advice not to go to sea that day - and the local experts. I don't think more of my time is needed to highlight the flaws in your points. There are clearly dive companies who follow the rules and prioritise safety, and others who don't.


Joe, SAFETY. That's the issue. And I'm sorry but no marine location is "100% safe year round". Especially on the worst weather day for many a long year. The risk factor would have been somewhat reduced only, by sheltering in the lee of Coral Island.

Was it worth the risk?

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 11, 2012 09:29


Dear Joe, well done for sticking to your guns and replying with intelligent and reasoned answers. Also for trying to stick to the point when others were trying to overt you.

Admittedly, I'm not a diver - bring on the "your opinion is irrelevant" comments - but I do have eyes and I can see Coral Island. Joe's comments seem more than reasonable to me. And judging by what he comments, he doesn't seem to work for the dive Co. in question. As he says it was an internal email to advise that due to the adverse weather conditions there would be no diving to Racha as planned, instead this side of Coral island would be used in place. A very reasonable notification it seems to me.

PW I know you don't owe us anything, but you published this article. Are stating for the record that it is unsafe to go diving in these conditions on this side of Coral island ? (The Marine Authority doesn't mention it). Personally I don't know for sure.

I agree it would be good to know what the customers thought. I would imagine they had a nice, if wet & windy, day. But I am prepared to be wrong.

Who are the experts here (re: diving around Coral Island)? My money's on Joe - judging purely from what he writes - who, incidentally does not recommend ignoring the official warnings.

(PS. I don't know Joe, but I'm sure he would agree with you that only a fool ignores the sea. He certainly hasn't said anything to contrary.)

Sounds to me like PW's sources have invested interests more than Joe.

And Dear Editor, to whom I much admire (most of the time ;) Joe's argument is not with the other Dive Companies, it's with you, for printing this article.

Let the retort begin ... or will you just moderate it ... we shall see.

Posted by James on June 11, 2012 11:42

Editor Comment:

We don't decide whether it's safe for small boats to leave the coast in appallingly bad monsoon storms, the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation does. They and the Bureau of Meteorology issue warnings to ensure the safety of sailors, divers and tourists. For you and Joe to try to argue differently only indicates the level of confusion and self-deceit inside and outside the industry. PW sides with the experts on safety at sea, every time. No exceptions, not even for Coral Island on the worst possible weather day. You and Joe are not experts, as you both continue to demonstrate. What you think about PW has no bearing on the issue and is of no concern to me. It just demonstrates your difficulty coping with an indefensible argument.

And that's it on this topic. Wise tourists and divers will vote with their feet.


For some reason, the word "not" was omitted (my fault) from the below response which completely changed the meaning and point I was making:

"I guess the Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation and the Meteorological Bureau should amend their danger warnings for all small boats along the Andaman coast to add ''except for xxx xxxx going to Coral Island.''" -Ed

No amendment needed. Coral Island isn't in the Andaman Sea, it's in the Phuket Sea. A small craft warning for the Andaman Coast does *NOT* technically apply.

Posted by Joe on June 11, 2012 17:28


Joe, please! Specific exemptions to general weather warnings are impossible. By your reasoning that Coral Island is not in the the Andaman Sea ( the Andaman "coast" I think was the word actually used), should we presume the weather warning should not have applied to Phang Nga Bay either?

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 12, 2012 09:19


Irrellevent point scoring against the ED, seems to have overtaken this debate, so I promise to retire from the discussion hereafter.

Here's my summation and last words....
The subject matter originally centred around an unknown Dive Company that offered trips to Coral Island under dangerous conditions. The argument arose that Coral Island was perfectly safe.It came out in discussion that the company in question was the only one to offer such a service on the day, and had prior safety issues.

Regarding Coral island, I hope those assuring us of it's safety are not confusing Koh Lon(Lone island) the nearest island to Chalong Harbour as some contributors seem to believ. Coral island ( Koh Hi ) sits beyond this Island 2 kml more to seaward. A boat traveling here ( and returning) must round Koh Lon and punch into the SW monsoon to reach the sheltered moorings on the north side of Koh Hi.

There is a long fetch channeling cross/onshore wind,( extreme on the day) and waves toward Cape Panwa between firstly, Koh Kaow and Koh Bon and Koh Lon to the north ; then Koh Hi and Koh Aeo to the south.

Now please correct me if I am reading this situation wrongly . . . .I am sure this small crossing is not an impossible task, just one that need not be promoted to the inexperienced on such a day.

Over and out.

Posted by Hugh Jarse on June 12, 2012 10:28

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