Holding fast to promises made, the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) will soon implement new regulations for boating operations with the aim of reducing the occurrence of river accidents in the North West District.
In a statement issued yesterday, MARAD said its Director General Claudette Rogers and team of officers recently visited Port Kaituma and Mabaruma to conduct a safety awareness programme for boat operators.
During the programme, boat operators were briefed on River Navigation and Safety Regulations by Director of Maritime Safety John Flores and were encouraged to practice all river safety rules whenever traversing the waterways, in an effort to curb the recent spate of accidents occurring in the area.
Additionally, the boat operators were briefed on new river navigation regulations which will be implemented soon in the Mabaruma, Port Kaituma, and Moruca areas, the release said.
These were specially produced for those areas where an enhanced prosecution process will follow for persons breaching the safety regulations.
One of the new regulations is zero tolerance for uncertified boat captains. In addition, there will be a restriction on passenger vessels operating during the hours of darkness, unless there is an emergency.
MARAD will deploy speedboat monitors in the specified areas to conduct safety checks on vessels travelling the waterways. These monitors, will be assisted by the law enforcement agencies comprising the Coast Guard and Marine Police, the release added.
The Director General encouraged the boat operators to be licensed, and explained that MARAD will be making the process easier for them by establishing safety centres in regions 1, 2, and 7 so that they will no longer have to travel to Georgetown.
During the course of the year, several persons lost their lives as a result of boating accidents, many of which occurred in the North West District.
A case in point was that of Basil DaSilva and Ophelia James, who lost their two children back in August in a boating accident along the Aruka River, North West District. Basil Da Silva, his wife and their three children, Wayne DaSilva, 16; Loyzal DaSilva, 7, and Daveanand James, 6, were making their way to Central Kumaka, when a boat crashed into theirs. The father was thrown out of the boat and into the water, while his wife and three children were left in the boat, which was badly damaged and started sinking.
James, who had sustained two broken ribs, a fractured shoulder blade and a punctured lung, had told Stabroek News that her two youngest children appeared to have been knocked unconscious as the boat was sinking and their older brother, Wayne, had tried unsuccessfully to save them.
Following this fatal accident, Rogers acknowledged the need for stronger regulations. Commander of ‘F’ Division Senior Super-intendent Ravindradat Budhram had urged all boat operators to observe the marine laws and precautions in a bid to minimise accidents.