You should be aware that the safety regulation of passenger and merchant vessels is the responsibility of the "flag state". This is the country where the vessel is registered. This may not be the place in which the vessel is operated. Standards of construction, equipment and crewing for larger vessels used on international services are regulated globally by the International Maritime Organization. Nevertheless there remain variations in the levels of implementation and enforcement of IMO standards in different parts of the world.
Vessels used on domestic services (by sea, river or lake) and for excursions are not subject to international standards and may or may not be licensed or regulated, according to the practice of national or local Governments. Typically, standards in some countries do not match those with comprehensive regulatory structures, such as the UK. Shortcomings may exist in vessel construction, operation and maintenance, crew training, evacuation procedures and safety equipment. Accidents involving loss of life or injury are not uncommon in some countries. The Sea Safety section of the travel advice notice should provide you with specific details of any recent accidents.
It is not practicable to offer detailed advice on individual local ferry or excursion services. However, if you intend to embark on such services you should be alert to risk factors such as the apparent age and condition of the vessel and its equipment; the competence and number of the crew; loading procedures (including limits on passenger numbers and security of cargo stowage); and general safety precautions (such as provision and signing of evacuation routes, lifejackets and buoyancy aids and fire extinguishers).
Most trips abroad are trouble free, however you should take sensible precautions and ensure that you are adequately prepared. If you are travelling with your own vessel, the Royal Yachting Association website: www.rya.org.uk/KnowledgeBase/boatingabroad/ contains useful information and guidance.
Piracy is a problem in some waters (e.g. Malacca Straits, South China Sea, Red Sea, and Indian Ocean). The following websites give up to date maritime piracy reports: www.yachtpiracy.org and www.noonsite.com/General/Piracy.
The following are general guidelines.
- Watch keeping: Maintaining vigilance is essential. Small craft that appears to match the speed of the yacht on a parallel or following course should be treated with suspicion.
- Secure area: If possible a secure area on board the yacht should be identified which the attackers would find difficult to access or penetrate.
- VHF transceiver: Radios are often damaged by attackers to prevent an early alarm being raised, particularly when the attacks take place off port. A VHF transceiver should be secreted on board to allow contact with shore authorities when it is safe to do so.
- Radio messages: Should an attack occur, a distress message should be transmitted by radio using the following format:-
“Mayday” “Piracy attack.”
Vessel's position (and time of position UTC).
Nature of event
N.B. It is assumed that the craft is in distress because of the imminent danger when under attack. Where this is not the case, the word MAYDAY should be omitted.
- Alarms and flares: On the approach of attackers alarm signals should be sounded and in cases of imminent danger distress flares could be used.
- Fire arms: Generally, it is not advisable to carry fire arms. If firearms must be carried, the skipper must ensure that these are allowed by the flag state and the host country where they intend to call in. The skipper should ensure that the crew are psychologically trained to use fire arms. Finally it must be noted that in some countries the penalties for the use of fire arms can be severe.
- If attackers board: If attackers board the vessel, actions should be designed to ensure the safety of the crew and ensure the earliest possible departure of the attackers. In most circumstances compliance with the attackers’ demands is the only safe course. If possible, the crew should retreat to the prepared secure area.
- If attacked: The attack should be reported to the local British diplomatic mission, relevant law enforcement agencies or naval authorities of the coastal state and the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), in Kuala Lumpur. Contact details of the centre are;
Facsimile: +603 2078 5769
Telex: +MA 31880 IMBPCI
e-mail : email@example.com