Opinion: All about negligence

News Desk in Jakarta/The Jakarta Post
Asia News Network

Jakarta (The Jakarta Post/aNN) - It goes without saying that negligence towards safety regulations and precautions and lack of proper supervision will lead to accidents. That is what has happened in the incidents of the three boats sinking in three separate locations over the past week. It is feared that there may have been hundreds of fatalities.

While bad weather and high waves have often been the most frequent excuse for such maritime accidents, passenger overload has apparently been the primary cause of sinking boats. The first boat to sink was a 25-meter-long wooden boat that capsized after being hit by 4-meter waves in Prigi waters, Trenggalek, East Java, on its way to Australia on the evening of Dec. 17. Only 47 people of around 250 asylum seekers on board - the majority from Iran and Afghanistan, but including a few Arabs and Turks - are known to have survived. The boat was built for just 100 passengers.

A second incident involved a speedboat that sank off the Ambon Bay on its way to the Ambon city center, Maluku province, on Wednesday afternoon. Fortunately, no fatalities were reported as all 27 passengers were immediately rescued by other speedboats operating in the area. It is true that sea waves in Maluku waters have been between 2-4 meters high as of late; conditions dangerous for sea travel. Yet, the fact that the speedboat sailed with 27 passengers, or twice its capacity, has only added to the risks of sinking in already dangerous sea conditions.

The third incident involved a ship that sank on its way from Saumlaki Port in Ambon to Seira village, Wermaksian subdistrict, also on Wednesday afternoon. There is no final confirmation on the status of the 100 passengers on board the capsized ship, as so far only four passengers have been found dead and rescuers are still looking for the others. It has also yet to be reported whether the ship was overcrowded during its sail, while waves were reported to be 3-6 meters high.

The last three boat incidents have only added to the already long list of such maritime incidents since January this year. Data at the Transportation Ministry reported that as of October 2011 there had been 150 fatalities in 139 sea accidents, 45 cases of which involved sinking vessels.

Probes of such cases have been and will always be long and complicated as they involve multiple interrelated parties. Whatever their causes, however, the accidents must have occurred due to negligence on the part of the boat/ship owner and/or operator and the passengers when regarding safety regulations and precautions.

Take the incident off Ambon as an example. Let us say the ship was not overcrowded, but the ship operator and the passengers should have realized the dangers of the high waves at the first place and reconsidered their schedules.

The sinking speedboat incident off the Ambon Bay and the sinking boat in Trenggalek - whatever the different motives that had led to their eventual sail - were a blatant example of negligence toward safety concerns. Not only had they violated basic sea travel regulations on the maximum allowable number of passengers on board, they also ignored safety guidelines on sea travel, including weather conditions and the availability of safety and rescue equipment.

The last three boating incidents were not the first, as we have seen numerous such cases before. The question is why such incidents have repeatedly reoccurred. Haven't we had enough or learned anything at all?