Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tank the Tanker

An oil tanker and a bulk carrier collided with another ship on 25 May 2010. As a results, thousands of tonnes of crude oil was dumped and now threatens the sea and shores of Singapore. The latest report has the oil slick affecting Malaysian waters too.

I don't have much of an opinion about this disaster, except to ask - what were the people manning the sea traffic doing, or more more pertinently, NOT doing to prevent this collision? Like the people manning the Control Tower in an airport, the people manning the seaport have just as heavy a responsibility to make sure things like this do not happen. The Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) has sophisticated radar control systems that monitor the passage of sea craft in its waters. Ships are mapped on giant radar screens, and the people manning these radar systems  are supposed to look out for any potential problems or collisions. Yes, in spite of these, a large bulk carrier can collide with tanker so near to Singapore's shores. Maybe the warning was issued to the ships but the captain ignored them. Maybe there was a failure in the communications hardware. Nothing has been said so far on where the fault lies. Whoever or whatever to blame, it just shows that the systems in place are not perfect, and the MPA will have to rectify any weakness. Singapore is, after all, the world's most busy port. An lapse in its systems and processes must surely reflect badly on its ability to host sea craft in our waters.

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