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Spotlight intensifies on ferries after Levina 1 disaster

Spotlight intensifies on ferries after Levina 1 disaster

Jakarta: Ferry safety is yet again in the headlines following the unexpected sinking on Sunday of the 27-year-old Japanese-built Levina 1, anchored off Jakarta, following a fire on board last Thursday. However, there was no accurate passenger manifest relating to the ship's voyage - from Tanjung Priok to Bangka Island - so there was no accurate passenger count. An earlier toll of 20 drowned passengers doubled early on Sunday as fishermen discovered the bodies of another 21 people.

Following the Thursday fire, the vessel had been towed to a supposedly safe anchorage some ten kilometres off the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Extraordinarily, when the listing vessel sank suddenly on Sunday, accident investigators and journalists on board were caught unexpectedly and local press reports indicated that one television cameraman and five others were missing.

This latest incident comes only a short time after two Indonesian ferry disasters late in December in which hundreds of passengers perished. One of the vessels, the Senopati Nusantara, was apparently carrying more than 600 passengers although the precise number on board at the time of the sinking could not be confirmed. There were also a number of casualties resulting from the capsize of a smaller vessel off the coast of Sumatra on December 27th.

A steady stream of ferry casualties in recent years, a number of them in Asia and involving heavy loss of life, has prompted the IMO and ferry industry organisation, Interferry, to establish a working party to investigate ferry operating safety procedures. Bangladesh was chosen as the subject of a pilot study in which issues such as overcrowding, terminal management, vessel design and crewing arrangements are being examined. In the meantime, ferry casualties keep on coming.  [27/02/07]