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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chan not guilty over ferry tragedy

Two marine dept officers suspended over ferry tragedy - Chan

PUTRAJAYA, Oct 16 (Bernama) -- Two officers in charge of the Marine Department in Mersing have been suspended with immediate effect, pending investigations into the ferry fire tragedy last Saturday.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said Tuesday the investigations would determine whether they had neglected their duties in the events leading to the tragedy off Pulau Tioman which took four lives.

"If they are found to have been irresponsible or careless, we will recommend appropriate action against the officers," he told a news conference at his ministry here.

Chan said a committee headed by the ministry's secretary-general, Datuk Zakaria Bahari, was in charge of the investigations.

A report on the investigations was expected to be ready by the end of the month, he said, adding that the Anti-Corruption Agency might be roped in to assist in the probe.

Chan also said that the government would take stern action against the ferry operator as an offence had been committed.

He said the Marine Department's initial findings revealed that the licence of the ferry, "Seagull Express", expired on March 16, 2006, and it did not have any valid licence as required under the Merchant Shipping Ordinance.

He added that the department had not renewed the Passenger Certificate, a requirement for any boat which carries more than 12 passengers, since March 18, 2005, after discovering that the ferry did not meet the safety requirement.

Asked if lack of enforcement was the main cause of the tragedy, Chan said: "I think so. That is why we have to suspend them (the two marine officers) immediately".

Chan said he had also ordered the Marine Department to conduct a nationwide exercise to ensure that all vessels were licensed and that boats carrying more than 12 passengers had a passenger licence.

He said it was conducted immediatetly with the cooperation of marine police and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA).

Meanwhile, MMEA Search, Rescue and Disaster director Admiral Sharani Hamid said the search and rescue operation would continue.

Last Saturday, the "Seagull Express" ferrying 106 people, including the captain and two crew members, caught fire and sank while on its way from Mersing to Pulau Tioman.

Four people died and four were injured. The dead were Hoo Lee Lan, 67, of Kuala Lumpur, Hong See Tiew, 53, and Teh Siew Lian, 52, of Klang, and Tee Moi @ Haw Lee Maoi, 68, of Batu Pahat.

Search operations are underway for three missing passengers identified as Choong Yoong Kim, 43, and Wong Soong Leng, 37, both from Petaling Jaya and Wong Hann Wen, 29.

Saddened by the tragedy, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi yesterday instructed the Transport Ministry to inspect all passenger boats and ferries to ensure that they are safe.

He also wanted action to be taken against the ferry operator.

DCP Datuk Mashuri Zainal took over as Bukit Aman's new logistics director from his predecessor DCP Datuk Zainal Mohd Tahir, who retired from the force today.


walski69 October 16, 2007 at 9:49 PM  

For once, there very well may be a REAL investigation for a change. The reason? An internationally known maritime convention called SOLAS, which Malaysia has not only signed, but also ratified.

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