Times Press News Paper
The Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) has been informed of the disaster involving a boat travelling from Shenge to Tombo on Tuesday September 8, 2009. The Party expresses deepest condolences to the families of the people who perished in this national disaster and sympathise with the survivors.
With the support of the SLPP Member of Parliament in Constituency 85, the SLPP local executive in Shenge was very active in the rescue of the passengers and provision of first aid support. They provided fuel for other boats to go on rescue mission. The Chairman of the District Council and Chairman of the Party in Moyamba district also visited the scene and provided assistance for emergency care services to the survivors and scaled up the rescue operation.
The Sierra Leone People’s Party would like to bring to the attention of the general public the efforts made in the past to promote passenger safety at sea. During the last SLPP administration, Sierra Leone ratified international safety codes including Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) under the aegis of International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The regulations provided for capacity limit for passenger and cargo boat indicated by visible load lines on the outside of all boats. Water level above the load line shows that the boat is overloaded and should not be allowed to leave the harbour. Other regulations include use of spare engines, life jackets for all passengers, adequate fuel at sea and regular inspection of the engines by Marine Engineers. The last administration also acquired huge quantity of life jackets and started nationwide sensitisation on use of life jackets and other safety rules. Also, Marine Monitors were employed and trained to ensure compliance to the safety rules. These monitors should ensure that all passengers have life jackets before departure. Coxswains (Pampa operators) were trained in navigational skills and safety rules.
It is, however, disheartened to know that since 2007, these regulations have not been enforced. The Ministry of Transport and Aviation and the Maritime Administration, the lead government agencies for sea transportation has failed to enforce the safety regulations. Even in Freetown, the use of life jackets is not enforced. There are inadequate Marine Engineers and Monitors to enforce compliance.
Even more alarming, the Ministry of Transport and Aviation cannot give correct figures of the number passengers that were on board (the survivors and dead).
The SLPP therefore calls for immediate investigation into the accident. The investigation should propose recommendations with clear implementation plans indicating timelines for action. This Plan should be made public and monitoring mechanisms put in place. In addition, the SLPP calls on full implementation of all international regulations and local laws relating to maritime transportation.
Due to the negligence by the Ministry of Transport and Aviation in this matter, the Party calls for immediate resignations of the Minister of Transport and Aviation and the Executive Director of Sierra Leone Maritime. This will ensure transparent and fair investigation of the accident and thus enhance the credibility of the findings.
Jacob Jusu Saffa
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