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We give reasons, not excuses: Harris

THE Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA) Director Tim Harris said the authority gives reasons and not excuses as to why it cannot undertake some of its mandated responsibilities.

“If you talk about the rest of SIMSA’s other activities, yes, we do give reasons, not excuses, as to why we cannot undertake certain of our mandated responsibilities due to shortage of personnel and funding resources,” said Capt Harris.

However, he said this does not apply to the essential services of SIMSA’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC).

“I would like to know when SIMSA’s MRCC has given excuses of ‘no support for the unit to operate’. Certainly not to me they haven’t. Where SIMSA does have problems is when we request aircraft or helicopters and they are mobilised, but the Government cannot pay the cost.

“This means that the next time we need a helicopter, if the invoice from the last incident has not been paid, the helicopter owners are reluctant to mobilise the unit until a ‘Good Samaritan’ guarantees payment,” he disclosed.

Capt Harris said it is natural that when incidents like the recent boat tragedy 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.

He adds 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 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.

“Solomon Islanders should be proud of SIMSA’s Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre and its personnel, who have an enviable track record for their efficient and effective response to SAR incidents in Solomon Island Waters.”

Furthermore, Capt Harris said the Solomon Islands Meteorological Office issues Strong Wind warnings and advance notice of low pressure systems in the different areas around Solomon Islands Waters.

“These warnings are to alert potential travellers, especially travellers who are thinking of putting to sea in small boats, to assess the risk of what they are doing and to deter them from setting out on their journey when the weather is bad or likely to deteriorate.

“SIMSA officers continuously give safety presentations in those areas where ‘hotspots’ are identified (places where there are above-average SAR incidents) and broadcast general and specific safety messages on SIBC as often as they can.

“They warn of the dangers of running out of fuel, especially when an OBM is working in heavy seas, when its fuel consumption will increase dramatically; of making sure there is a spare spark plug; of making sure that no alcohol or drugs are involved and, perhaps most important of all, that the vessel is not over-loaded with people and/or goods.”

He said until this current issue is finally investigated he will make no further comment on the number of persons on the boat.