JERTIH: Admitting weaknesses in standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance among some of its members, the Kuala Besut Tourist Boat Operators Association says it is willing to cooperate in the investigation of Monday’s (Jan 31) boat collision.
Its chairman Mohamad Khaizul Che Mohamad Noor said the association regretted the incident and apologised to the victims and their families.
“Many boat operators near the jetty immediately provided assistance by sending the victims to the Kuala Besut Health Clinic for treatment.
“We hope those who are being treated at the Sultanah Nur Zahirah Hospital will recover soon. We also welcome any improvement such as training or spot checks on boat drivers for the safety of passengers,” he said here on Wednesday (Feb 2).
Mohamad Khaizul added that since the association’s inception in 2019, a total of 66 tourist boat operators have registered with it.
In the 3.30pm incident on Monday, a tourist boat from Pulau Perhentian ferrying 29 passengers collided with a boat carrying three fishermen at the Besut River estuary near the Kuala Besut Jetty.
All passengers and crew members of both boats fell into the water, but were rescued by the police, the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department, Civil Defence Force and members of the public.
Currently, seven individuals – two adults and five children, aged between four and 70 – are still being treated in hospital.
A check at the Kuala Besut tourism jetty found that visitor arrivals were not affected by the incident and day trip packages to Pulau Perhentian continued to receive good response.
Some tourists were seen taking boats from illegal private jetties despite being aware that the vessels may not have a licence or permit from the Marine Department, and sometimes carried passengers beyond the permitted capacity while not enforcing the wearing of lifejackets.
Perhentian Sunny Travel Sdn Bhd owner Suziana Mohammad said so far, there had been no reports of tourists cancelling their bookings due to safety concerns after the collision.
“Boat drivers are often reminded to focus when bringing tourists to the island because a little negligence can lead to big disasters.
“Hopefully, this incident will open the eyes of more parties to keep an eye on irresponsible activities that will jeopardise the tourism industry in Pulau Perhentian,” said Suziana, who has been providing tour packages to Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang and Pulau Kapas for more than 20 years. – Bernama