We were told after last week’s Phuket boat disaster that a “Marine department patrol boat has braved rough seas to bring 33 tourists stranded at Koh Racha Yai back to safety”. Indeed with winds of 35kph, and a swell of 2.4 metres, local tour boats should have kept ashore.
Yet for perspective, we could compare these conditions to those currently off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, or in the Philippine Sea. Winds of 245kph and waves of 13 metres in the Philippine Sea, and only slightly less severe conditions off Hatteras, have forced most vessels ashore or to change course in order to avoid the worst of the storms.
Although possessed with over 3,000 kilometres of coastline, Thailand is not a maritime nation and desperately needs to strengthen its maritime safety regulations. A tour boat which cannot withstand the very moderate seas offshore Phuket has no business being licensed. Almost all tour vessels in Thailand need to be replaced by modern, far more robust designs intended for commercial operation. Safety inspections need to be conducted in earnest and captains must be required to pass thorough examinations. Until then the entire marine tour business should be shut down.