by Ernesto T. Solidum
Providing Tourists Safe,
Comfortable Pleasure Trip
On October 3, 2012 island cruise mishap occurred in Boracay that claimed three Taiwanese tourists. Commdr. Armand Balilo, Philippine Coastguard spokesman said that 30 passengers were aboard Keon 2, a wooden hull pumpboat that capsized off the coast of Manoc-manoc. Witnesses claimed the sea craft encountered a squall causing passengers to panicked, congregated to one side of the boat causing it to tilt and finally capsized. Dead on arrival at Aklan Baptist Hospital, Caticlan, Malay were two elderly women: one 72 and another 49 years old. A 2 year old child died later. All boat passengers wore life jackets.
Island cruise is often included as package deal visiting Carabao Island, Romblon and around Boracay. Typhoon Mercer on that above date was mercilessly pounding Zambales province and parts of Central Luzon accompanied by drenching rain and thunderstorm. Southern Tagalog and the Visayas were not threatened according to PAGASA.
Given the situation at hand, boat cruise went ahead on schedule. Local authorities said it is a freak accident but has claimed more than a hundred lives since the early 1970’s when jump off point of tourists to Boracay was Alimbo-Baybay, Nabas that took longer hours travel. Pump boats during that time were much smaller than the ones currently being used.
Engr. Jonathan Salvador, Manager Metallica Marine Consultancy Fabricators and Services, Poblacion, New Washington, Aklan said, “there is a need to develop a sea class boat capable of providing maximum safety and security to our tourists. A world class tourist destination like Boracay must abide with the international marine safety standard in order to stem the alarming deaths, injuries, and loss or damage to property. Foreign tourists are covered by accident/travel insurance in their countries of origin as they board any public conveyance like plane, car and ships. However, they are not covered by insurance policy once they board wooden pumpboats which are not sea worthy.”
As a licensed shipbuilder, Salvador recommends an all fiberglass luxury yacht trimaran model that could withstand wave distance of 45 meters and above between crests. This yacht can navigate even during typhoon signal No. 1. The volume displacement is 33 cubic meters for main hull and 4.5 cubic meters for “outriggers”. It has overall dimension of 14 meters by 7.2 meters and capable to transport 25 passengers at a trip. Other features include centralized air conditioning and three independent engines. Stability is guaranteed, unsinkable and durable. This boat is ideal for island cruising and affordable to tourist-oriented establishments which costs P7.0 million more or less.
Those who could not afford the high acquisition cost of a yacht could opt for a taxi boat or Mandarin type that cost about P2.8 million. Overall dimension is 12 x 4.6 meters, made of fiberglass, ideal for Caticlan – Cagban Jetty ports.
For the proposed roll on, roll off Jetty Port service Pook – Boracay route, Engr. Salvador envisions a 50 x 20 meter steel hull ship capable to ferry 600 passengers and 15 medium size delivery trucks at a time. This is based on 300 tourist’s arrival per day to Boracay. With 3 to 4 trips daily, all the food and construction needs could be transported direct from Pook, Kalibo to Boracay customers. This would eliminate unnecessary expenses, time and effort like transport and handling that reduce cost. This however requires bigger investment of P80 – P120 million.
The logic to building safer and affordable water craft is to assure tourists of safe, comfortable and fast travel in Aklan especially in Boracay.
Engr. Salvador noted that trade winds (amihan and habagat) in Aklan are more violent now than they used to be. A 30 kph wind if synchronized by on-going high tide invariably result to a .3 meter crest enough to rattle a person’s senses on board a pumpboat with flimsy bamboo outriggers. In Boracay, it is normal to have 10-20 meters distance between crests. Above this level, there is typhoon that the Philippine coastguard issues corresponding warning and stoppage of sea transport operation.
Considering that Boracay is strategic tourists’ destination and dollar earner, proper legislation must be crafted leading to the adoption of sea worthy passenger vessels. Wooden hull pump boats made of cheap marine plywood is outdated.
Mr. Niven Maquirang, administrator of Caticlan Jetty port disclosed that the mooring facility can accommodate only five pumpboats at a time. With a trimaran boat, present capacity can be doubled, boost income and improved efficiency.
Some 50 years ago, Boracay native islanders once used “parao” or a slick wooden boat with sails to navigate island hopping trips powered by wind. Its use was limited to pleasure water craft for sports enthusiasts. It’s time now for changes to cope up with the present demand. To stand still is to lose the competitive edge to other scenic tourist spots. /MP