Following a recent spate of fatal accidents, government authorities in Arakan State have distributed life jackets to ferry boat operators in the region, while warning that anyone found ferrying passengers without such vests will face official action, including suspension of their license.
Speaking this week to DVB, Arakan State Development Minister Min Aung said, “We issued 2,300 life vests to 330 ferry services operating with licenses. If we find them operating without these vests, we will take action against them.
“We are also going to clamp down on unlicensed boat operators.”
It is believed that the new regulations will apply to long-tail boat services in Arakan, officially known as Rakhine State; but whether large ferries such as passenger ships will face penalties is unclear.
A headmaster in Taunggup said that students have to queue up for long-tail boats since the recent floods washed away bridges and roads.
San Lwin, the headmaster of a school in Taunggup’s Natmaw village said, “Most of our pupils have to take the ferry, which can be very dangerous when there is a flood – there are no life jackets.”
Tin Aung, the education director of Taunggup Township, said his department had no plan to distribute life vests to students.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement’s permanent secretary Soe Aung said the ministry would need statistics from regional authorities to gauge how many life jackets to distribute and to which areas.
“At the moment, we have no information on how many life jackets are needed or in which townships,” he said.
On 19 August, four schoolchildren lost their lives in a boat accident in Rathedaung.
And seven students drowned on Ponnakyun Island on 1 June when a ferry boat carrying them capsized in the Poshwepyin Creek.
Large passenger ships have also been capsized by the elements of nature. On 13 March, 62 died when the Aung Takon 3 sank in a storm off the coast of Myebon in Arakan State.