Saturday, January 01, 2011

Mersing Tragedy

[Quote] Dec 28, 2010
Giant waves hit boat and flipped it over
Survivors tell of struggle to break free of cabin and stay afloat in choppy sea
By Kimberly Spykerman & Amresh Gunasingham

Malaysian fire department officers yesterday in the process of recovering the wreckage of the doomed boat that capsized on Sunday, killing four Singaporeans. Another Singaporean is still missing. Some survivors said they found themselves trapped in a cabin in the overturned boat until someone managed to break the windows. -- PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

ONE moment, all was calm.

The next, giant waves hit the boat, tossing it high into the air. [End Quote]

* * * * * * * * * *

Having dived in Eastern Peninsula Malaysia's waters for 8 or more years I find this tragedy appalling. Condolences to those who were sent off before they could spend their CPF money.

My take on the issue:

Boat overcrowding?

Simple nett result of everybody wanting everything 'cheaper' - tough as it sounds that's the plain and simple truth. You get what you pay for. Would you pay for another boat and increase the transport portion price of your holiday by 2x?


Divers who traverse the same waters for 4 to 5 hours out to Tioman and Pulau Dayang or Pulau Aur (next to each other) use boats that are easily twice or nearly thrice as large. There must be a reason why the diving industry for Tioman/Dayang/Aur closes down for about 3 months a year during roughly November through end of February. The famed North East Monsoon in November 2010 flooded even Koh Samui's airport to the point where the runway lights shorted. Parts of Koh Samui were under up to 2m of water.

The dive industry is extremely competitive for the most part in Singapore but I believe all the players in this market know that to head out at this time of year is virtual suicide. Yes, you can get to Tioman, by air. But there are almost no boats coming back or going there from Mersing / Tanjung Leman.

In short, a needless tragedy.

Make no mistake that I'm an advocate of conservatism to the extreme but this Northeast Monsoon is an extremely well documented weather phenomena. Yes there will be days which are clear but anyone who has spent anytime out at sea some 60km from the mainland where Mersing is also knows that the weather can change dramatically in the span of 15 to 20 minutes.

How do I know? In 2009 sometime in August (the tail end of the Southwest Monsoon which is not supposed to hit the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia) swept through the very same waters as were were on our way back from Tioman on Sunday afternoon. Some in the group asked me if we were going to die as the boat was rocking almost up to 45 degrees off the vertical both left and right while being pitched up and down in 5m high waves.

This vessel, the Damai Express, is easily twice the size of the boat which was caught in the recent Mersing tragedy. Surface visibility was virtually 0m and by the time the 45 minute storm was over the captain couldn't tell which way Mersing was as he struggled his best to make sure the boat rode the rough waves as best as he could.

FYI, the following trip the good captain invested in a phone with GPS.


I wonder if these fishing packages were put together by Singapore tour operators?

None of the news articles appear to analyse the situation other then reporting on the tragedy and commiserating a little with the grieving relatives. This shallowness lends itself to a citizenry who is similar given that the papers are encouraged reading and fabled to carry the 'truth.'

Let's hope there is no repeat of this next year or in future years. The sea and the weather needs to be respected. Unless you're a storm sailor with good experience and good equipment (which costs quite a chunk of money) .... very few people know how to deal with a storm.

Mis-conceptions & Mis-perceptions by i-dots.

Overhead at the coffee shop: "One lady said there was water at the bottom of the boat even before they began"

Fact: most vessels with any form of covering (i.e. a large enough vessel that warrants a main deck and a below deck) will have water at the bottom of the boat. Unless the bilge pump (go google it) fails, this water is ever present in some quantity. Even in ocean going steel hulled vessels that can take 8000 containers. Sailboats with a main deck are included in this phenomena of water in the boat.

The ability to invent truths and pin blame never fails to amaze me. Would be rather entertaining if not for the serious regulatory and economic repercussions that they cause inadvertently.

I'm waiting to see how Tanjung Leman, where this tragedy occurred, instead of Mersing, gets linked to Lehman Brothers ......

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