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Authorities to probe boat tragedy

MARINE authorities will soon hold a de-briefing into the tragic death of five people and 15 missing when their boat capsized off the coast of Marau last week.

Director (Ag) of the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA) Capt Tim Harris said they are in the process of arranging a de-briefing session when this incident is finally stood down.

“Whenever there is a serious maritime incident, especially with loss of life, SIMSA holds a de-briefing session with the Maritime Police Unit and, if they have become involved, the RAMSI support personnel.

“We are in the process of arranging such a de-briefing session for when this incident is finally stood down,” he informed the paper.

Capt Harris yesterday sends condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the tragic OBM incident last week.

He has also clarified accusations levelled against SIMSA Search and Rescue Unit for slow response into the matter.

Capt Harris said it is natural that when incidents like this occur people’s emotions run high and it is human nature to want to feel that more could, or should, have been done to save the victims.

“It is somewhat disingenuous, however, to lay blame for failure to save the victims at the feet of the responders who have acted consistently in a professional manner. These professional Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) officers are being accused of failure for errors of judgement on the part of the perpetrators.

“This accusation is not acceptable, the MRCC officers have bent over backwards, putting in long hours and lacking sleep to give the best service they can,” he said.

The SIMSA head has also said SIMSA has no capability to physically go to look for persons who are missing; which is not the MRCC’s responsibility. SIMSA’s MRCC is responsible for ensuring that a response is made by mobilising the local police, the Maritime Police Unit (if necessary) and alerting all ships in the area, who under the requirements of the Shipping Act 1998, must respond to a directive from the MRCC.

“It is very dis-heartening when SIMSA Officers are accused of tardiness when the supply of the “platforms” from which to launch SAR is something over which SIMSA Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) has no control.

From Situation Report (SITREP), Capt Harris quoted the log book as: “MRCC Honiara was informed of the incident at 1430 hrs (2:30pm) on Wednesday 14 June.”

He said MRCC had requested the Police Maritime Unit to send the Patrol Boat and the vessel was due to sail at 0300 hrs (3am) on the morning of Thursday 15 June, but later that day MRCC were informed that the vessel could not sail as it had developed a mechanical problem.

Capt Harris said the Patrol Boat Auki was not able to sail, so the Patrol Boat Lata was sent instead, but was not able to sail until late in the afternoon of Friday 16 June at 1645 hrs (4.45pm).

However, he said the Police Stabi-craft with Marau police boat and local boats have already conduct search in the area.