Hi Everybody -

Last Friday I attended a NEMO training seminar on SAR (Search and Rescue at Sea).
The Coast Guard and Port Authority made presentations about their fields of responsibility and how their chain of command works.
There was also a simulated boating accident and sea rescue. The exercise was most instructive.

Safety at sea was discussed at great length - a summary of points is below:

A. Ferry boats - commercial carriers with multiple passengers:
Passenger Manifests - do operators know who is on the boat - if there is a mishap, the rescue team needs to know how many people to look for.
None of the local boats have a passenger manifest with names etc. and although it would be ideal to do so, it seems almost impossible to think a local ferry service could implement this
Coastal Xpress and Island Ferry do have a plan to count heads and communicate to their dispatch each time they take on passengers or discharge them.
The larger boats going to Belize City know how many tickets the sell but it seems have no particular method of accounting for their passenger loads.
Port Authority is trying to come up with some methods for tracking passengers.
Life Jackets - must be easily accessible - that does not mean storing down in a hold with luggage -
best plan would be to require children to wear them, and to have adults hold one on their laps. At least with this method, the boat captain
would know if the count of passengers and the count of life jackets was the same.
It seems that none of the local boats presently do any safety briefing prior to departures. All of these points will be discussed with operators of commercial boats.
Overcrowding - the subject was raised, and port authority will review this concern

B. Captains - further training
We were introduced to Wafagua Nautical Safety Institute - a school offering training in seamanship at all levels. It is affordable and classes can be customized to your available time and location. It is noted that even when local captains are familiar with local customs, they may encounter captains who have other kinds of training. If our local captains are to be truly safe, they also need to learn international customs and signals and rules of the road. This knowledge can help us avoid problems as our waters are traveled more and more often by many people who received boat-handling training elsewhere and who may operate their vessels differently. The school offers all levels of training - from teaching a novice how to operate a boat to learning chart-reading and professional coastal navigation.

Contact Major Swaso (info below) for a complete set of information on classes offered, costs, etc.

Mr. H. Gilbert Swaso Major (Ret'd)
Managing Director
Wafagua Nautical Safety Institute
Cell: (501) 670 - 8297
e-mail: swaso.wnsi@yahoo.com