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Posts Tagged ‘Victoria Harbour’


Not the beach view anyone wants

These are just my own personal ramblings about an incident that has caused a sickening loss of life. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who perished, as well as the survivors who will doubtless relive those terrifying events in their minds eye for many years to come.

From every marine accident there is an investigation and from every investigation there are conclusions. Such investigations are not tasked with prosecuting the guilty, they are simply to find the facts of what happened and why it happened, so that where required, systems or procedures or equipment can be changed or modified to try to ensure the same thing will not happen again.

The relevant police authorities will make their own enquiries to deal with the facts of suspected liability and guilt. Thereafter the relevant legal jurisdiction will act accordingly on the matter.

But more than that, after an incident like this with such a tragic loss of life, surely in many maritime regions and territories, the relevant persons are asking: Could this happen here ?

That is a question to which I believe there is no “Yes or No” answer, but there are a lot of things to consider.

There is a simple and chilling fact; any accident at sea or elsewhere is analogous to a chemical reaction, if you allow the dangerous mix of ingredients into the same place at the same time then there may well be a violent reaction.

If you can keep them separate, then hopefully nothing happens. In many accidents at sea the ‘ingredients’ are speed, complacency, poor lookout, visibility and navigation, systems failure, and the unexpected.

As to the question; Could it happen in Singapore ? well it could, but in my opinion, it’s very unlikley, and here’s why.

Firstly the relevant Goverment Agency, the Maritime & Port Authority, MPA, has been very active for many years in “managing” the operation of ferry traffic in Singapore. One of the major features of this is that all ferries are required to follow demarcated routes into and out of, and through Singapore waters, and the routes are well defined and well known by near all users. In addition these ferries are required to adhere to set day & night speed limits for the routes in the direct approaches. Consequently if you are at sea in those corridoors at night, then you expect to meet ferry traffic, and at 12 knots you have a bit of time to spot them, and navigate out of their way.

Just One of the Designated Ferry Routes

It’s worthwhile to note that these routes and speed regulations have been in place for around ten years. Also be assured that they have added time and distance onto each and every journey. I can remember some journeys being around 15 minutes quicker. It was also strange to watch as a ferry gets further away from the destination to follow the route.

Secondly the Police Coastguard has a large presence on the water with a large number or active patrol craft throughout Singapore waters. Whilst they have a multitude of roles, they would seem to keep some form of watch of ferry and private and passenger traffic. This is part deterant, and part Big Brother to make sure that maritime rules and laws are followed.

At a location near you ?

Thirdly, major events such as fireworks, or yacht races or waterborne events, etc. likely dont draw the same volume of on-water spectators in Singapore as perhaps as in cities like Hong Kong, Auckland or wherever. Also Fireworks in Singapore are within sheltered or enclosed waterways, and can be easily, and best viewed from onshore. Just look at any National Day, F1, or New Years event video to see what I mean. Obviously Fireworks are at night, which immediately brings navigational and lookout issues.

Victoria Harbour Fireworks

Fourthly and importantly, the MPA many years ago implemented a scheme of ensuring each and every craft on the water has some form of AIS or HARTS, (Harbour Craft Transponder System) on board. This in effect enables the MPA Port Operations to monitor the location and speed and heading of every craft on the water, if in fact they have the time, the interest and manpower to do that. (Note they’ve just upgraded their system to handle 10,000 vessel tracks at any one time ! Click on photo to follow link to read the release.)

WOW just upgraded, they can handle 10,000 vessel tracks at any given time ! Click to follow link !

In addition there is any number of MPA Pilot boats, and MPA launches out and on the water. There is also the system of Cruising permit application process for Non Singapore registered pleasure craft vessels, which requires approval for their route and schedule for any given cruise.

Perhaps lastly there is the issue of geography and layout. Singapore has a defined and ‘regular’ coastline, and a small number of islands with ferry access, with defined routes of access to and from. Reclamation has played a big role and Islands have been dredged, linked, joined, connected and amalgamated for the use by Indutstry, Military and Leisure/Property Development. In some cases bridges and roads have been built for access, negating the use of ferries.

Other than that, and significantly, the regional ferry traffic has to be very much less than in Hong Kong.

A lot of sea room there. Easier to miss than have a collision

Indicative only. Believe accident site was close to NW tip of Lamma Island.

The investigation is underway in Hong Kong, and the families of the perished will be waiting for those conclusions, to answer the question of “How could this happen”, but the likelyhood is that is that this will all come down to those ingredients mentioned above.

If there is however one immediate lesson to be learned from this whole affair so far, it is the conclusion from the photos below.

It’s a bit unfair to make this comparision as I dont know the standards that each vessel was built to, but the immediate reaction is that one sank, and one made it to the dock, presumed to be under it’s own power.

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The conclusion ? Travel by Catamaran !

Two Hulls = Two Chances !

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Image Source : BBC, SCMP, ST, online news outlets, etc.

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