Pacific to toughen up on inter-island vessels

Pacific nations are looking into compulsory pre-inspection rules before purchase, covering all secondhand vessels for inter-island use.

The recommendation came from the third Domestic Ship Safety Forum held in Papua New Guinea last week with 13 Pacific nations including New Zealand.

The Pacific Community's ship safety audit adviser Omirete Tabureka says second-hand vessels are usually purchased without a pre-inspection, but that will soon be a requirement.

"To make sure it's fit for purpose...[we are] probably looking at engaging some well-qualified inspectors and surveyors. These countries lack that kind of expertise."

Mr Tabureka says financial constraints usually force ship owners to purchase cheap vessels, but it jeopardizes people's safety.

"They [vessels] are meant for calm seas or sheltered waters but when they're brought in to the Pacific region, they're exposed to open seas which is not what they're intended for."

PRN reports the last major domestic ship incident was in Kiribati earlier this year, when around 100 people drowned in the sinking of the MV Butiraoi.

Mr Tabureka says it's all a part of pushing maritime safety and improving ship services between the small island nations.

Overcrowding, overloading, maritime governance and accountability were other domestic ship issues that were raised at the forum.

The collective agreed that a community approach to these issues would be the way forward. 

Mr Tabureka says community will help pressure ship operators to be more accountable.

"The community can have a consultative mechanism, that'll include gender and youth, where they can talk together and bring their own issues related to shipping services to make sure they are safe."

"They can fight for their own rights to make sure they're provided with safe shipping."

The Cook Islands and Tokelau are the newest members of the Domestic Ship Safety Forum, taking the total member count to 10.

Other countries in the forum: Tonga, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Samoa, Tuvalu.