Speaking on World Maritime Day, Port Vila Lord Mayor, Eric Puyo Festa, says banana boats operating in Vanuatu need to be urgently upgraded to ensure they are safe for passengers.
Mr Festa says there are many banana boats that are operating around Vanuatu’s islands that have no safety equipment, including essential items such as life jackets.
He says the lack of safety equipment means many Ni Vanuatu using banana boats are vulnerable and without protection out in the ocean on, fishing trips for example.
“As the city mayor, I cannot accept people dying and getting lost at sea when they travel by banana boat,” he said.
The mayor called in particular on the Vanuatu Maritime Services Regulator to improve the services of banana boats to ensure the vessels are safe at sea.
The regulator is responsible to regulate the maritime sector of Vanuatu. It impose a maritime safety regime throughout Vanuatu which ensures the safety of Vessels and their crews and passenger, and which complies with all applicable international Conventions and obligations. Ensure the effective regulation of ports and port facilities through the promotion of efficient and safe port operations and the protection of rights of port uses to access ports and port facilities on fair and equitable terms. Enshrine the principles of independence and best practice in relation to regulation of the maritime sector; and Promote the security of shipping and port operations, and to facilitate compliance with all security related aspects of applicable international maritime conventions.
In an important development in maritime safety, the Head of Technical at the Office of the Maritime Regulator, Kembro Mandeson, says the authority has signed an agreement with the fisheries department for life jackets with flares to be distributed to all banana boats using Vanuatu waters.
And Mr Mandeson says to add to safety precautions, GPS devices will be fitted to licenced sea vessels.
“If you pay for a license from the Department of Fisheries and register with the Office of the Maritime Regulator, the officers from the fisheries department will put a small device in your boat,” he said.
“That device will activate once you’re in the water and the fisheries department will be able to monitor your location through it.
“So, if you are lost at sea, the department will be able to track you down and if necessary rescue you,”
Mr Mandeson says awareness is growing amongst small vessel owners around Vanuatu that they should register their vessels with the fisheries department so they can receive the safety tools.
Vanuatu celebrated World Maritime Day last week which had the theme – Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet.