Safety regulations on ferry needs review following fatality

By The Editorial Board 23 November 2022, 6:00AM

The loss of life last Friday, when a man died after he fell asleep under a truck on the interisland ferry to Savai’i, was tragic and should not have happened.

How can a man in his 40s lose his life like that when there is a lot of emphasis today placed on road and even maritime safety by the local authorities. Or are State agencies charged with that responsibility doing enough?

An article (Teen charged over co-worker’s death) in the Tuesday 22 November 2022 edition of the Samoa Observer also reported that a 16-year-old was behind the wheel at the time of the death.

Police Commissioner, Auapaau Logoitino Filipo, said the deceased worked for a wholesale company and had slept underneath the delivery truck when the incident happened last Friday.

He said the deceased and a 16-year-old were with another work colleague who is the driver working for a wholesale company in Salelologa Savai'i. 

"We don't know why the 16-year-old was behind the wheels but he is not the driver and works with the two other men," Auapaau told the Samoa Observer. 

"He is being charged with reckless driving causing death and unlicensed driver and he is remanded on bail until his appearance in Court on 5th December." 

The deceased is a male in his 40s from the village of Puapua and the defendant is from Salailua, Savai'i. The legal age for a minor to drive a vehicle in Samoa is 17 years, according to the Police Commissioner. 

What this tragedy on the inter-island ferry has exposed, we believe, is the lax and don’t care attitude of members of the public to safety regulations.

First things first, why would you sleep under the truck, knowing very well that it will be driven off the ferry when the vessel arrives at Salelologa? We were dumbfounded at the lack of rationale, when the three employees of the wholesale company boarded the ferry with the truck, and one of them chose to sleep under the vehicle.

The fatal accident also puts the spotlight on the Samoa Shipping Corporation (S.S.C.) and the enforcement of its safety regulations.

What are the corporation’s safety regulations for passengers who also bring their vehicles on board its interisland ferries to and from Savai’i and Upolu? 

Are the corporation’s safety regulations for passengers travelling with their vehicles adequate enough to avoid similar accidents happening in the future?

One thing that should happen is for the S.S.C. to undertake a review of its safety regulations, especially pertaining to vehicle owners who use the interisland ferry service, and whether drivers of vehicles should be in the cabins with other passengers and not on the ship’s deck in their trucks or cars. We are aware that the crew of interisland ferries are often not strict in getting drivers and passengers to leave their vehicles and go up to the cabin.

The safety regulations review should also include an assessment of the ferry’s inspection schedule and whether the crew get to frequently check all vehicles onboard – before loading and prior to disembarking up arrival at the destination.

Following a review of its vessels’ safety regulations, it should up the ante on public awareness, which would highlight the dangers of breaching those laws and the need to maintain the safety of all passengers and crew at all times.

We say this having witnessed the celebrations last week led by Toa Samoa supporters in Apia, in the lead-up to last Sunday’s Rugby League World Cup (RLWC) grand final match, where various traffic regulations were broken by motorists and their passengers, and the Police did not seem to care.

While the Samoa Police Service, in the previous week, appealed for the celebrations to be in line with the law. There was evidence of various breaches with people dancing on their vehicles’ roofs, the bonnet, wanton alcohol consumption, sitting on the windows and dancing on the road blocking oncoming vehicles, to endanger their lives as well as that of the others.

The bluntness of the offending during the celebrations was definitely not a sight to behold, and comes back to our earlier point about the lax and don’t care attitude of members of the public, to safety regulations and the importance of having them. Rules and regulations on inter island ferries or public facilities for that matter are put in place to ensure the comfort and safety of the traveling public as well as to save lives. 

By The Editorial Board 23 November 2022, 6:00AM
Samoa Observer

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