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Okinawan Ferries found lacking safety equipment

Date Posted: 2003-12-11

An investigation of 20 companies operating passenger-carrying ferries on routes between Okinawa, its outer islands, mainland Japan and Taiwan has discovered that the ships from 18 companies have many safety equipment deficiencies. The Okinawa Government General Affairs Department published the findings in a report released Monday. The most common fault was taking too many passengers. The report says the ferries in some cases had allowed as many as 80 passengers over the maximum limit.
Many also do not have enough safety equipment such as life jackets and life rafts, and they are often in poor shape. The prefecture has sent a letter of reprimand to those 18 companies, and ordered them to rectify the situation immediately. Director Hiromitsu Matsushita of the General Affairs Office says that ferries are essential for Okinawa, and the maritime safety should be foremost in the minds of the people who operate them. “Okinawa Prefecture consists of many islands, and without ferries it would be impossible to live on those islands. That there has been no ferry disaster is no excuse to be lax on safety. Ferry operators must follow safety rules strictly, that’s the only way to keep up our safety record,” Matsushita says.

Matsushita says that his office plans to follow up with more inspections to insure that the faults have been corrected. He declined, however, to name the 18 companies. “We want to give them a chance to correct the problems first, but if they fail, we will deal with them strictly,” he said.

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