Abandoned vessels a safety risk

National 2 minutes, 36 seconds

BELAIT

THE Marine Department yesterday called upon community leaders to keep themselves updated with issues surrounding the abandoned and shipwrecked vessels along Sungai Belait, as they can be harmful to the environment.

An official from the department’s enforcement division, Hj Yusoff Hj Metusin during a marine safety roadshow at the Kuala Belait International Convention Centre (KBICC) told grassroots leaders to remind boat-owners to take immediate action on ships they had dumped at the river.

Besides obstructing the pathway, he said these ships could cause environmental harm, especially those with fuel inside them, and “a leakage could happen as the vessel structure deteriorates, which may cause fire or pollution to the river”, said Hj Yusoff.

Speaking to reporters, he acknowledged that there are several ships and boats being dumped along Sungai Belait, and few of the owners have also been contacted.

“We had already sent them an order to move their ships out of the river,” he said.

“And most of them had complied, revoking their registration with us and selling their ships to foreign clients,” he added.

No specific grace period was given to these owners, however, the Marine Department is taking it case by case, according to the conditions of the structure.

“If they are shipwrecked, they may need more time — and worse, if there is still fuel inside, they may have to take more time because a rushed job in moving them out may cause an oil spill,” he said.

The owners of the remaining ships and boats however, have yet to be traced, he said, adding the possibility that they may also belong to foreigners.

This is why, he said, it is important for boat and ship owners to register their ownership with the Marine Department so that it is easy to identify and contact them before taking take any action on their vessels.

Registering, he said, could also help protect them better should something untoward happen to them, as foreign unidentified vessels can be treated as a threat, especially if they enter a restricted zone on Bruneian waters.

“And if owners sold their ships to foreign clients without revoking their ownership with us, the former owner could be held accountable if anything happened to the vessel after that,” he added.

The official expressed hope for ship and boat owners to be more aware of the risks they are exposed to in refusing to register their vessels with the department, as anything could happen to them at sea.

Hj Yusoff was amongst the speakers for yesterday’s road show, along with other representatives from the Royal Brunei Police Force, Land Transport Department and Brunei Shell Petroleum Sdn Bhd.

The roadshow was aimed at enhancing public awareness towards maritime safety issues, and reminding fishermen to always comply with the Merchant Shipping Regulation, including to avoid being at an area within 500m of offshore platforms.

Failure to do so, officials explained yesterday, could lead to a fine up to $100,000, and their boats and ships confiscated by authorities.

Present as the guest of honour at the road show was the Belait District Officer Hj Haris Othman.

The Brunei Times