EDITORIAL -Sleeping and knee-jerking

The Freeman

As always happens in the aftermath of an accident at sea, the Maritime Industry Authority suspended several sister ships of the ill-fated Lady of Carmel, a roll-on roll-off ferry that sank a few days ago in Masbate. Marina's reason for the suspension? The sister ships had deficiencies.

Maybe the sister ships of the Lady of Carmel did have deficiencies. But isn't it precisely the job of the Marina to check for deficiencies and to correct them the moment they are discovered? So why were they not discovered earlier? Why did the Marina conduct tests only after the accident?

If there were deficiencies discovered, then by all means the sister ships of the Lady of Carmel should be suspended. But the story should not just end there. Heads should also roll at the Marina. Or at least, some fat bottomed officials of the Marina should be suspended as well.

To discover the deficiencies only now when a ship has sunk clearly shows the Marina's laxity and inefficiency. It means that had not the Lady of Carmel met an accident, Marina would not have checked its sister ships and they would have continued plying their routes despite their deficiencies.

But it is good that Marina found deficiencies because at least it can justify the wholesale suspension. But that has not always been the case. In fact, the rule of thumb at Marina seems to be that when a ship meets an accident, the entire fleet of the company that owns it is promptly suspended.

That is a very arbitrary and abusive practice. It prejudges an entire fleet by presuming that conditions attending an ill-fated vessel similarly attend the rest of its sister ships. More importantly, it unnecessarily cripples an entire industry without sufficient basis other than that the ships belong to the same company.

The Marina should take a cue from the airline industry, where the regulating authority is much more thorough and circumspect and does not allow itself to be influenced by public opinion. Whenever an aircraft meets an accident, there is no immediate grounding of all similar aircraft until after the cause of the accident has been determined.

A recent example would be that of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which entered service in late 2011. Fires ignited by its lithium batteries dogged its early flights but did not result in automatic grounding of the aircraft. It was not until early 2013 that the order was issued to ground the aircraft worldwide until the problematic battery was fixed.













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