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Vietnam boat sinking

Halong Bay is one of Vietnams top tourist destinations and countless thousands of tourists enjoy boat trips without incident. Sadly in this case, the speed with which the boat sank gave many of those on board little chance of escaping.

It seems that a simple error made by one crew member has led to this tragic death of 12 people, among whom were tourists and travellers from a wide variety of countries.

It proves once again that far from what most people consider as the most serious dangers to travellers, such as terrorism, civil unrest etc., it is actually on the roads and being in / on the water which poses a much greater danger.

A voyage by boat is one of the great pleasures of travel; it can be relaxing, refreshing in tropical climates and even reassuring by offering separation from the challenges travellers face on the mainland. However it has and will always remain a form of transport which carries some risks, wherever in the world you may find yourself.

The fact is even the most sophisticated ships can run into trouble, the sea and the weather have never been completely tamed by modern engineering; in developing countries where more traditional vessels are preferred over expensively engineered boats, the risks are even greater.

The risks from taking these types of trips can never be completely eliminated, but effective planning can reduce some of them. However even the best planned trips are not without problems and I have found myself in very challenging situation on a number of occasions in Fiji, Borneo and most memorably in the Philippines where we found ourselves fighting the tail end of a cyclone trying to get back to land before the storm really hit; an experience I would never wish to repeat.

It is worth checking on weather conditions and the state of the vessel yourself before you set off, remember that people trying to sell you a trip are under great pressure to make an income and will not always be 100% truthful about their ‘local knowledge’. Check also the local safety record and the simplest of checks such as are there lifeboats / life jackets, do they give you a safety briefing, is there an engine room alarm system and does the captain and crew look like they are more often sober or drunk…?

Always ask a question or stand up for yourself and say something, if you notice anything you are not happy with, both before and during a trip.

In this particular case it seems that human error in not replacing a plug in the engine room led to a slow leak which was only noticed once it had become catastrophic; often when boats start to sink they go down very quickly, making it difficult or impossible for those below decks to escape.


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Source – www.bbc.co.uk

Date – 20th February 2011

Submitted by – Peter Mayhew