Improvements in cruise safety on Halong Bay, but further progress needed.
In the 18 months since the sinking of an overnight cruise, authorities have taken significant steps to improve cruise safety on the bay. The international coverage of that tragic event, at one of Vietnam’s most visited tourist destinations, resulted in the Quang Ninh Provincial People’s Committee issuing new and more stringent safety regulations governing the Halong Bay cruise industry. These safety regulations stipulate a higher level of compulsory safety requirements and standards, stiffer penalties for non-compliance and more rigorous monitoring regimes. In parallel with the new regulations, Port Authorities have been provided with increased resources and training.
While the bolstered Halong Bay cruise safety regulations have resulted in improvements, further progress is still needed. Vessels belonging to reputable cruise operators have physical safety devices, such as GPS location and VHF communications equipment, fire and flood alarm systems, etc. in place, and safety standards and procedures dictated by foreign experts. However, many vessels belonging to some smaller operators do not. Although it is being addressed by many cruise operators, international-standard safety education and training for crew members remains an issue with some cruise operators.
“In summary, cruising Halong Bay has never been safer. Yes, safety standards are coming off a low base. Yes, there are still risks. Yes, significant improvements have been made, and Yes, there is still some work to do for some cruise operators” said Mr Armand Cheveux, Business Development Manager of Bhaya Cruises.
Captain Jody Atterton, Bhaya Cruises’ Head of Safety has his say.
Born into a family of Australian seafarers and mariners, and the only foreigner to hold a First Class Captain by the Vietnamese Government, Captain Jody Atterton leads and directs our safety drive. Here he tells us about his role in achieving the highest possible levels of safety for the entire Bhaya Cruises’ fleet.
What are your projects here?
“My first objective is to guarantee that all of the vessels in the Bhaya fleet either meet or exceed the new safety regulations. Secondly, I have a personal desire and professional responsibility to ensure that once this is achieved there is a process in place to guarantee international safety standards are adhered to by the Bhaya fleet for their cruises on Halong Bay.
To their credit, the Bhaya management team pays more attention to safety issues than many other cruise operators on Halong Bay.”
So how is safety being taken care of on the Bhaya Cruises vessels?
In a word, seriously, I am the captain charged with ensuring the safety standards for the whole fleet are as good as they can be. We now have Safe Standard Operating Procedures in place to ensure all crew members know their roles and responsibilities in any emergency situation. We conduct training for local captains, crews and support staff to bring their skills up to international safety standards. To this end, we conduct weekly emergency training and safety drills. Maritime safety is a serious issue. We treat it as such.
As a commitment since the day our first vessel came into service in 2007, Bhaya Cruises has placed the highest priority on safety. We continuously review our internal standards and procedures, looking for any ways to improve the safety and security of our vessels, passengers and crew. We have always aimed at reaching international safety standards with the best safety equipment, systems and procedures.
How do you maintain the boats?
The vessels in the Bhaya Cruises’ fleet operate under stringent, professional, technical supervision and are subject to strict ongoing maintenance schedules. These schedules include regular monthly inspections and rectifications, bi-annual routine maintenance periods and an annual dry-docking to ensure all aspects of seaworthiness and accommodation are in good order.
And the staffs?
Each Bhaya fleet vessel is commanded by a qualified and certified Captain. All vessels’ crew members have training certificates or recognized expertise accredited by the appropriate Vietnamese Government Authorities. Every vessel has a watch keeper on duty 24 hours a day and safety checks are done hourly. All service staffs are also drilled in the safety features and equipment on their vessel. During their time onboard, all skills are enhanced and improved through frequent emergency and safety training exercises and practices devised by myself.