Prime Minister Hon Manasseh Sogavare has conveyed his deepest sympathies to the families, relatives and friends of those who have lost their lives in the tragic event of 14th June 2017.
“My heart goes out to those are mourning the loss of their loved ones as result of this tragic incident. May the Lord comfort you and give you peace in this time of sorrow,” the Prime Minister said in a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office today.
The Prime Minister stated that the recent tragic event is a wakeup call for both the relevant authorities and the people of Solomon Islands who travel by outboard motorised canoes.
He stated that the recent tragic event has elevated concerns on the availability of mechanisms on ensuring the sea travellers complying strictly with safety measures.
Whilst the Search and Rescue Division (SAR) is mandated with the role to provide search and rescuing operations, the SAR is also resource- handicapped. In light of shortfalls of SAR, the Prime Minister has directed that provisions be specifically included in the 2018 budget for SAR Operations.
“I have been informed that there has been a number of tragedies related to the public traveling in conditions that comprise the safety of the passengers of the boats despite warning issued by the Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA). Safety is not only the concern of the Government but the people must also be responsible for the safety of each other when traveling” the Prime Minister stated.
The Prime Minister announced that he has established a taskforce consisting of officials from the Ministry of Police, National Security and Correctional Services (MPNSCS), Ministry of Infrastructure Development (MID), Solomon Islands Maritime Safety Administration (SIMSA), Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Royal Solomon Islands Police Force – Maritime Unit (RSIPF). The Taskforce will be mandated to conduct a review of the current emergency response systems and mechanisms including improving the capacity of emergency services to immediately mobilize assets whenever required.
Further, the Ministry of Infrastructure Development will be tasked to undertake legislative review to provide for:
(a) Standard specification of manufacture of banana boats using either aluminium or fibreglass;
(b) Requirement of installation of safety features on boats manufactured;
(c) Strict compliance with minimum safety measures and / or conditions such mandatory use of life rafts, mandatory use of locator beacons installed on the boat, flares, maximum passenger and cargo carry, non-consumption of alcohol by operator and passengers;
(d) Obligations of boat owners or boat operators to ensure safety measures are complied with; and
(e) Criminal liability for boat manufacturers, boat owners and boat operators for failure to comply with legal requirement including criminal liability for boat operator if operator fails to ensure that passengers complies with minimum safety measures.
The Taskforce will be providing the Government with recommendations to prevent such tragedies in the future and the office of the Attorney-General will be instructed to facilitate the drafting of necessary legal instruments.