Frequent incidents of burning tourism launch boats during sea and diving trips has endangered the reputation of diving tourism and water sports in the Red Sea, which attracts about 2 million tourists annually.
The latest incident occurred a few days ago, after fire broke out on the Blue Dolphin tourism launch boat, which was carrying about 40 tourists of different nationalities in front of Sahl Hasheesh area south in Hurghada. The traumatized tourists were rescued by people on nearby boats, who managed to get them out of the water.
Security and safety procedures on the boats are scattered between a number of ministries and agencies, such as the Maritime Safety and Inspection Authority, the Tourism Diving Chamber and the Egyptian Federation for diving and rescue.
Al-Masry Al-Youm interviewed some specialists on how furture fires can be prevented.
Former head of the Diving Tourism Chamber of the Red Sea, Ashraf Saleh, said that diving trips turn into a “tragedy” when these freak accidents occur, howeve some boat owners will then claim large financial compensation.
Saleh revealed that are three main reasons for the recurrence of these fire: the kitchen usually furnished without compliance to the set safety measures, contains gas cylinders for examples, the second reason is poor electric connections and consequently can cause an electrical fault and the third reason may be intentional and criminal intent to burn their boats to claim insurance money.
Saleh demanded that the Ministry of Interior be party in issuing the licenses and inspections of the boats to guarantee stricter security procedures.
A security source at the Red Sea governorate revealed that most of the incidents of sinking or burning at sea are due to deliberate dumping or burned by the owners for insurance purposes.
Workers in the industry say the same, elaborating that most burnt boats were near the end of their life expectancy, so the owners proceed to burn and sink them, and will even register a new boat with the same license.
Director of Red Sea Protected Areas Directorate, Ahmed Ghalab, and member of the Committee for the Issuance and Renewal of Boat’ Licenses in the Red Sea governorate, said that the new regulations for approving and renewing licenses for tourist boats, have set conditions to ensure that the owners of these boats abide by maritime safety regarding the number of passengers and the size of the boat as to provide the boats with all safety and rescue devices.
Ghalab added that the Maritime Safety and Inspection Authority does not cooperate with his directorate in violations committed by tourist boats and that the Red Sea Protected Areas Directorate must have authority in inspecting boat cases.
He called for campaigns by maritime inspection officials, after these incidents, to ensure the presence of fire extinguishers within each boat. He stated that they must meet the requirements of their licenses, in terms of industrial security and protection.
Officials with the insurance company in Hurghada said that the compensation on boats was estimated at millions of pounds, and it is calculated depending on the value of each boat and the insurance deposit. He said that these problems are between the insurance companies with their clients, and does not require intervention of a third party to protect the funds of insurance companies.
Edited Translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm