Disasters can and do happen with monotonous regularity. The recent sinking of the Express Samina is a classic case of what can happen. An enquiry will be held and four of the crew have inthe meantime been charged with murder, held responsible for the many deaths. But what of theuntold suffering that has been caused to the friends and relatives of those who drowned as well as those who survived the tragic sinking?
Questions will doubtless be raised over the vessels age, which at 34 years is considerably older than the Greek Authorities will allow in future. Questions need also to be asked about the apparent lack of seamanship, a point raised by many of the survivors, and the apparent guesswork that went into the passenger count.
An example of what little is done after an accident is the case of the Marchioness, the Thames passenger vessel which collided with the dredger Bow Belle. The Marchioness had carried manythousands of passengers on the Thames over a period of many years but there were fundamentalproblems with the design of the vessel, such that, for example, the skipper could not see aft, or hear warnings from an oncoming vessel due to the volume of the disco music. These and otherfeatures contributed to the loss of 51 lives. What have we learnt from this accident?
Little it would seem.
After the Marchioness disaster, legislation covering the safety of vessels was tightened based on the age of the vessel. Vessels newly introduced to the Thames are subjected to many new rules and requirements which are designed to improve safety and survivability. In the meantime, current Thames vessels should perhaps be openly graded, and duly publicised, in order to alert the general public to their prospects of survivability - not much to ask surely?In the light of the recent Greek ferry tragedy should we stop here, or simply rely on the publicity provided by infrequent surveys carried out by Europe’s motoring organisations?