Ship Accident Series, Who's to Blame?

Five naval accidents in Indonesia occurred within a month. The locations are random.

Kamis, 29 September 2011, 12:40 Anggi Kusumadewi

VIVAnews – It was still early in the day, the sun was not too hot yet. Yet, the atmosphere at the Port of Tanjung Perak, Surabaya, was hustle and bustle. Fire flared from the Kirana XI motorboat that was about to anchor.

More than 500 passengers of the ship who were initially ready to depart, looked panicked and rushed to go overboard. Fatally and tragically, eight of them were killed being trampled.

Ironically, this is the fifth ship accident this month. Last month, on August 27, 2011, Windu Karsa motorboat sank in the waters of Kolaka, Southeast Sulawesi, and left 10 people dead. On September 21, 2011, Sri Murah Rezeki motorboat sank in Nusa Lembongan waters, Klungkung, Bali, killing 14.

Only two days later, on September 24, 2011, Tunggal Putri motorboat sank in waters of Raas island, Kangean Islands, Sumenep, Madura, causing 13 people dead. Two days later, September 26, 2011, Marina Nusantara motorboat sank in Kadap Island waters, Barito, South Kalimantan. And today, again after the accident two days before, Kirana IX motorboat was burned.

House of Representatives Transportation Commission member, Saleh Husin, regretted the accident series. He said the incidents were a blow to the 'Roadmap to zero accident' which the government has been promoting, in this case the Transportation Ministry.

"I am concerned. The ship accidents were not supposed to happen," said Saleh, Wednesday. According to him, the Transportation Ministry should be accountable for these accidents. Saleh suspected, these are due to the regulators’ and officers’ negligence.

The House Commission V also intended to summon the relevant parties in connection with the accidents. "We want to get a picture of the problem to be analyzed," he said.

Different Causes?

The Transportation Ministry Head of Center for Public Communication, Bambang Ervan, said that every ship accident has different causes, so the successive accidents cannot be seen from one perspective. "The fire on Kirana ship, for example, is it not because the ship itself being on fire, but rather the burning truck inside the ship," he said.

Bambang asserted Kirana ship is a large ‘roro’ passenger type which certainly has a certificate of eligibility. ‘Roro’ stands for roll in-roll off, the type of ship that can carry vehicles that enter the ship by themselves, and exit in the same way.

Therefore, in addition to transporting passengers, ‘roro’ ship is also used to transport passenger cars, trucks, or motorcycles. Ships of this type are popularly used in Java, Sumatra, Madura and Bali. "The ships have generally gone through due diligence. Every year, large passenger-capacity ships should go to the dock for test. A certificate by the Indonesian Bureau of Certification will be given for the ships that pass the test," said Bambang.

In any case, said Bambang, the Transportation Ministry will be accountable for the many ship accidents lately. "On national scale, the Transportation Ministry is indeed responsible. But it must be tiered, hierarchical, because it is all a part of the operational technicalities," said Bambang.

Deputy Transportation Minister Bambang Susantono said that the ministry will evaluate and reorganize the shipping routes in some areas in Indonesia. "We will reorganize the shipping routes. So far, it is suspected that the accidents in the waters were due to lack of supervision around the site," he said.

Safety culture

National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) Head of Marine Committee Hermanu Karmoyono highlighted the safety culture of the people of Indonesia which is still low. "From some NTSC’s investigations, there is a strong indication that the accidents were caused by the low safety culture vessel of the general public," said Hermanu.

According to him, the issue of ship accident is a common problem that all parties must also deal with. "We cannot blame anyone. To be sure, the culture of safety must be upheld by all parties, including the passengers on board," said Hermanu.

He then cited the Kirana Ship accident that was caused by truck burned inside the ship. In the truck cabin - where the fire was the biggest- a bottle of perfume was found, while the truck itself contained onions.

"Perfume contain highly flammable alcohol. It may have reactions with chemicals in the onion," said Hermanu. But he would not conclude anything until there is an official examination results from the Forensic Laboratory of National Police Headquarters Surabaya branch.

The point is, Hermanu explained, such dangerous things are sometimes not noticed by the public, including the truck driver who was also a ship passenger. In fact, he said, many trucks that board the ship carry hazardous materials, either noticed or not.

"For example, gas, oil paints, plastics. Such materials are flammable when interact with highly flammable compounds at a certain temperature. Such materials could prompt vapor that causes a fire, or be the start of the fire itself," said Hermanu.

These materials, he added, could become more dangerous if someone is smoking nearby. "Don’t be misled, although the vehicle’s deck is no-smoking area, there are still people who smoke there," said Hermanu. According to him, in this case, public awareness and discipline are also necessary in preventing such accidents.

Hermanu also called for tightened security at ports, including examining cargo trucks that board the ship. He also asked truck drivers to be open, for the safety of passengers and themselves.

"It must not happen that, because the truck’s load is considered dangerous and the truck is prohibited from aboard, the truck driver then hits the port inspectors," said Hermanu. Unfortunately, he added, such incidents are still frequent in many ports, particularly the ports in eastern Indonesia.

Hermanu did not want to blame and accuse any party. "We cannot blame anyone. To be sure, the culture of safety must be upheld by all parties, including the passengers on board themselves," he said.

Translated by Indah Lestari

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