It is really very sad to listen about the tragic news of several deaths as a passenger boat capsized in Port Blair waters. Such boats are registered under the Inland Vessel Act 1917 and are subjected to an annual survey. A probe needs to be conducted against the surveying authority at Port Blair for ascertaining any lapses committed by him. In the survey certificate, the number of Life Saving appliances is clearly shown. It is the duty of the Inland master in-charge of the boat to check that these appliances are functioning. The Annual survey also includes the survey of the hull to check for it’s soundness and water tightness.
It is the duty of the master and crew to ensure that passengers (it has been reported that she was overloaded) do not crowd on one side of the boat especially those which can carry 20-25 passengers. There is no central lengthwise barrier to prevent this calamity and even then the Inland Master in-charge of the boat ensures that passengers do not shift towards one side ( port or Starboard) causing the vessel to tilt. An investigation needs to be carried out to ascertain if any well qualified master was on board or not? If not, it is a grave offence and the designated master must first be arrested. Often the master is not present on board and entrusts the wheel to someone else. All ferries operating in these waters must be examined.
The examination of Inland water first class and second class masters is conducted orally only and corruption in issuance of such certificates cannot be ruled out. These days NCV (near coastal voyage) training and examination is being conducted by many colleges which lacks qualified training faculty possessing good experience. The DG Shipping has authorized certain organizations to conduct NCV examinations.
It is necessary to find out if this has been done backed by some Gazette Notification or properly framed and published rules. Otherwise there are possibilities of irregularities which may result in mishaps. It has to be ascertained whether NCV examiners are possessing adequate qualifications and experience. Who is selecting them? The surveyors of MMD are selected by the UPSC. It is to be ensured that we are not unwittingly carrying on illegal transaction of business without legally tenable authorization and rules for the purpose of ensuring safety at sea and within inland waters.