Af­ter deadly ac­ci­dents, Rakhine State gets tough on boat li­cens­ing

The Myanmar Times - - News - YI YWAL MYINT news­room@mm­times.com

AF­TER a se­ries of deadly sink­ings in­volv­ing un­li­cenced ves­sels, au­thor­i­ties in Rakhine State are crack­ing down, in­form­ing helms­men they must regis­ter or face hefty fines.

Since the be­gin­ning of Au­gust, joint teams rep­re­sent­ing the Wa­ter Trans­port Depart­ment, town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices, the Myan­mar Po­lice Force, the Im­mi­gra­tion and Na­tional Reg­is­tra­tion Depart­ment, Myanma In­surance and the Depart­ment of Fish­eries have been con­duct­ing an ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness cam­paign. Boat own­ers have been in­structed on reg­is­tra­tion pa­per­work, and have been warned that dis­ci­plinary ac­tion will now be en­forced on the lo­cal wa­ter­ways.

“Ves­sel own­ers in town­ships where we con­duct ed­u­ca­tion cam­paigns have to regis­ter within 10 days of our dis­cus­sions,” said U Htin Kyaw, head of the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port Depart­ment for Rakhine State.

“They will face fines if they do not com­ply within the re­quired pe­riod. Un­der the Ves­sels Law, fines for un­reg­is­tered ves­sels range from K500,000 to K2.5 mil­lion, and fines for ves­sels with no busi­ness li­cence are K300,000 to K500,000,” he said.

All fish­ing boats and all fer­ries car­ry­ing ei­ther cargo or pas­sen­gers must regis­ter.

The joint team is reg­is­ter­ing boats and is­su­ing busi­ness li­cences af­ter con­duct­ing inspections. For ves­sels with en­gines below 20 horse­power, the town­ship ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices are re­spon­si­ble for the reg­is­tra­tion. For ves­sels above 20 horse­power, the In­land Wa­ter Trans­port Depart­ment will is­sue busi­ness li­cences.

“So far, across the state we have li­censed more than 3000 ves­sels with en­gines below 20 horse­power, and more than 800 ves­sels with en­gines above 20 horse­power. The process – in­clud­ing col­lect­ing data, is­su­ing li­cences and con­duct­ing inspections – is con­tin­u­ing,” said U Htin Kyaw.

Boat own­ers ad­mit­ted to let­ting their li­cences lapse when en­force­ment was lax.

“I reg­is­tered when I started my busi­ness fer­ry­ing cargo. But as no inspections were con­ducted, the other ves­sel own­ers and I stopped both­er­ing to up­date our li­cences,” said an owner of a ferry in That Kay Pyin vil­lage who asked not to be named. “The port of­fi­cials and I con­ducted busi­ness through a mu­tual un­der­stand­ing. I didn’t know there were heavy fines for not reg­is­ter­ing.”

U Htin Kyaw said that the wa­ter trans­port au­thor­i­ties were try­ing to be rea­son­able about no­ti­fy­ing boat own­ers be­fore start­ing to im­pose fines.

“If we took ac­tion at once with­out ed­u­cat­ing them, the ves­sel own­ers may face fi­nan­cial losses. That’s why we are con­duct­ing ed­u­ca­tion as a first pri­or­ity,” he said.

On Septem­ber 7, three women drowned and an­other three went miss­ing and were be­lieved to have drowned af­ter a pri­vate mo­tor­boat fer­ry­ing them be­tween town­ships in

‘As no inspections were con­ducted, the other ves­sel own­ers and I stopped both­er­ing to up­date our li­cences.’

That Kay Pyin ferry owner

south­ern Rakhine State sank in tur­bu­lent con­di­tions. The ac­ci­dent was at least the fourth of its kind this year alone. Two boats car­ry­ing school­child­ren sank in June and Au­gust, claim­ing a to­tal of 11 young vic­tims.

MPs blamed the state govern­ment for not prop­erly en­forc­ing safety stan­dards. In re­sponse, state au­thor­i­ties an­nounced in Au­gust that boat own­ers must keep life­jack­ets on­board all ves­sels, and will have their li­cences re­voked if they fail to abide by the new reg­u­la­tion.

– Trans­la­tion by Zar Zar Soe

Photo: Yi Ywal Myint

A boat in Sit­twe is in­spected and the owner in­formed of reg­is­tra­tion pro­ce­dures.

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