THE two-boat collision in Kampong Ayer, which resulted in a 17-year-old local missing and presumed dead, is a repeat of many such fatal accidents in one of Brunei Darussalam’s most visited places.
Has anything been done about it? The answer has to be a big no.
Every time there is fatal accident on Brunei River, the concerned department issues a statement “reminding” boat operators to follow guidelines.
There is something very basic that’s found missing from motorboats that operate in the river – life jackets.
Hundreds of journeys are being made by the residents of Kg Ayer to come to dry land or return to their houses on stilts every day, but none of the boats that carry them have life jackets and nor do we get to see any drivers wearing one.
The perilous trips criss-crossing the Brunei River are taken by many students on a daily basis and if accidents that have taken many lives haven’t woken up the relevant authority yet, I wonder what else would.
Under Section V, Schedule 3 of the shipping regulations, it is obligatory for all water transportations to be equipped with life jackets.
If life jacket is the lone safety issue during daytime, what happens in the river after the sun goes down is akin to walking a tightrope across the river.
The boats operate in the dark with just flashlights indicating their presence in the water. Only seasoned operators can drive without ramming their boats into each other or onto concrete platforms that litter the waterway.
The latest accident happened at around 10 in the night when two boats collided with each other sending one person to hospital and the other unfortunate one into the river with little chance of survival.
The Marine Department often reminds boat operators to drive within the speed limit and maintain good maritime conduct at all time, as well as follow the Shipping Regulation (Prevention of Accident at Sea) 2007 including utilisation of lights from sundown to sunrise.
Are flashlights that are currently being used enough to curb such accidents? It is something for the Marine Department to ponder over.
There have been letters in the Opinion pages of the Bulletin where boat operators have lamented over lack of lighting on some platforms in the middle of the river.
The relevant authority should look into installing powerful lights at strategic places.
The speed limit of the boats has to be set. Devices are available that can curtail the top speed of a boat. It can be made mandatory for all boats to install such devices.
The Brunei River is dangerous for boat operators during high tide. Limiting the speed of boats during high tide must be made mandatory.
It’s high time the boat operators are regulated for their own safety and that of their passengers.
– Life is precious