Asia’s Scary Ferries

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Time magazine has a sobering article about the dangers of travelling by ferry in the Far East.(Asia’s Scary Ferries – January 15, 2009)

Airline disasters may grab the front-page headlines, but in Asia, ferry accidents are more common — and deadlier. Last year, nearly 1,500 people perished in nine major ferry accidents in the region. The death toll for airline crashes in Asia was 93 in four incidents. Last year’s biggest ferry disaster occurred on June 21 in the Philippines, when the M/V Princess of the Stars foundered and capsized, taking almost 800 lives. More people died in that accident than in the largest air-travel disaster in history, the 1977 runway collision between two 747s in Tenerife, Spain, that killed 583 people. (Read "How to Survive A Disaster.")

The Tenerife crash resulted in a bout of airline industry soul-searching. Significant changes subsequently were made to international flight regulations and practices, including the implementation of new cockpit procedures and the standardization of English as the industry’s universal language of operation. (Read "Indonesia’s Year of Living Dangerously.")

But in the aftermath of ferry disasters, while blame is usually assigned, little is done to prevent reoccurrences. Asian government officials say there is widespread awareness that maritime safety ought to be improved. But budget constraints and bureaucratic roadblocks impede progress, they say.

Scary indeed. So much of this is so easy to solve because the root cause of many of these casualties is poor judgment.  The lack of leadership by government and maritime leaders is frightening and the international community’s tolerance is incomprehensible. The numbers don’t lie. Don’t become a statistic, stay away from Asian ferries!

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Peter A. Mello

Husband, father, son. Lifelong mariner, student of leadership, photographer. Professional creative placemaker.

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