The release of a Commission of Inquiry report into the tragic sinking of the MV Butiraoi in Kiribati last year has brought fresh grief to the nation, as it has described a litany of shortcomings on the part of the ship’s Master, crew and operator.
95 people died when the MV Butiraoi sank between Tarawa and Nonouti island on January 18 2018. Search and rescue operations were not instigated until eight days later. By then, many passengers had perished at sea.
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The majority of the Pacific’s underwater charts are outdated with some of them dating back to Captain James Cook’s expeditions to the region in the 18th century. Secretariat of the Pacific Community’s Applied Geoscience and Technology Division (SOPAC)’s acting Deputy Director Jens Kruger said the majority of nautical charts in the Pacific are out of date and no longer useful “Some charts are just sketches dating back to the days of Captain Cook, and most have not have not had any new information added since World War II,” he said. Kruger was responding to queries on their latest efforts to update the underwater charts of Vanuatu. Starting this month, the International Maritime Organisation’s Safety of Life at Sea Convention regulations will require member countries to move toward using electronic navigational charts.
Failure to update nautical charts will result in their withdrawal from circulation. This in turn, would cause cruise ships to stop visiting certain Pacific destinations, severely impacting local tourism as a consequence. Kruger said the relevant legal instrument that enforces the standards for safety of maritime transport through the provision of hydrographic services is the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention. He said the latest version of SOLAS adopted in 2002 made it mandatory for large ships to have digital systems for navigation. All states wishing to operate in the international maritime community are therefore required to: • map their seabed (carry out hydrographic surveys) • make new charts or modernise existing charts (produce electronic naviga tional charts); • communicate ma rine safety infor- mation.
The Cook Islands, Fjii, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu have all ratified their SOLAS convention obligations in December 2, 2013. He said the majority of Pacific island countries and territories did not have the capacity or resources to fulfill their obligations under the SOLAS convention.