MPA steps up checks on vessels that call on Singapore ports

According to the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, marine surveyors will conduct up to 13 inspections during peak travel periods such as the festive season, or twice the average number each month.
Liyana Othman Channel NewsAsia 29 Dec 15;

SINGAPORE: The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) has stepped up checks on vessels that call on Singapore ports this festive season, to ensure that passenger ferries are seaworthy and comply with international safety standards.

In late November, a Batamfast ferry heading from Batam to Singapore hit a floating object. Ninety passengers were on board. The crew was reportedly unprepared for an emergency, and the life rafts leaked.

To better protect ferry passengers, marine surveyors will conduct up to 13 inspections during peak travel periods such as the festive season, or twice the average number each month.

These checks are conducted on 58 Singapore- and foreign-registered ferries, run by 10 operators.

Mr Lim Hock Lye, senior assistant director (Flag State Control) at MPA, said: "We do spot checks when the ferries are coming alongside the terminals, when they are disembarking passengers and embarking passengers.

“During this period, we do a focused inspection on the general condition of the ship and to make sure that the crew are familiar with their duties and responsibilities."

MPA also conducts detailed checks that could last three hours. Marine surveyors go up to the navigation bridge to make sure documents like safety certificates, records of safety equipment, information on the vessel's maximum capacity, the crew's certificates of competency, as well as navigational and communication equipment are in order.

They also check if the crew has proper voyage planning before inspecting the machinery and the hull, or the ship's main body. Surveyors make sure they are in working condition and there are no fire hazards or leakages, among other things.

Finally, they check if lifesaving and firefighting equipment has been serviced, stowed and carried in adequate numbers. Surveyors will also review the safety video and posters on board.

Another crucial aspect of an inspection is the simulation of an emergency, to check the preparedness of the crew members to respond to any incident on board.

"MPA believes that safety is everyone's responsibility,” said Mr Lim. “That's why we encourage all stakeholders, including the ferry operators, to be vigilant in safeguarding ship safety to prevent accidents.”

“We conduct regular briefings for the ferry operators and their crew to raise awareness of the safe practices at sea, navigational safety, as well as emergency preparedness,” he added.

According to MPA, all ferry operators are cooperative and always facilitate these inspections. Ferry operators that fail to meet safety standards must address the issue. If they do not do so and this poses a serious threat, they will not be allowed to operate the vessel until the problem is rectified.

- CNA/xk

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