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Transport industry badly needs a shake-up

 | February 1, 2017

And the authorities need to buck up.

COMMENT

catamaran-sabah-1

If the authorities are serious about restoring public confidence in our transportation industry, they must change their work culture and focus on leadership, management, processes and the relationship between various departments.

All too often, we find that recommendations made after a serious accident are not fully implemented.

In last Saturday’s boat tragedy in Sabah waters, a report about the missing catamaran was made 13 hours after it failed to arrive at Pulau Mengalum. Why did it take so long? Are boat operators prone to changing their schedules?

Why did the people who were to receive the tourists not raise the alarm soon after they failed to turn up as expected? The ride was supposed to be only a few hours long.

By the time some of the survivors had been picked up, the current had carried them about 60 miles from where the catamaran had capsized.

Did the boat sink because it was overloaded, as alleged? It has since been reported that the boat owner, its captain and two crew members have been arrested.

We are good at arresting people after something bad has happened. If the authorities had done their jobs, fewer accidents and tragedies like this would happen.

The problem of overloading boats has been known for years. Some years ago, a boat capsized off the coast of Terengganu while on its way to Redang island. It was not the first nor will it be the last boat to sink there.

Regular visitors to the islands off Terengganu know well that safety procedures are rarely adhered to. Only when a marine police patrol boat is nearby do the tourist boat operators make passengers wear their life jackets.

The boats are not equipped with life jackets for children. Children should wear small life jackets, not adult ones.

Every major accident investigation has revealed poor communication and interaction between the various transport agencies. Some agencies are found to be unsure of their roles and responsibilities.

The follow-up recommendations after major bus crashes are rarely implemented. Why? And we still don’t know whether the traffic supervisor who was sleeping on the job when MH370 disappeared has been punished.

Sabah tourism is already suffering, what with kidnap attempts in its waters. It would be tragic for Sabah to be dealt a further blow because of incompetence and apathy.

Safety is a top priority, but few recognise this.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist

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