Frequent reports in local media clearly indicate that travelling on a yacht or ferry can also be quite risky. Boats capsize, collide and sink, causing injuries or loss of life, but following some basic rules can increase your chance of staying safe. Below you can find some recommendations from the Phuket Tourist Rescue Centre at Chalong Pier.
Boarding and disembarking
Big vessels such as ferries normally have comfortable and safe boarding ramps, gangways and bridges for passengers to get on and off board. These vessels themselves are also heavy enough to stay motionless while people board, disembark and move around.
Small boats, including longtails and speedboats, are not as stable, and gangways are not always present. The smaller the boat is, the more careful one should be on it. Remember, falling into the water can present a serious danger, because boats at the pier are often moored next to each other and there is always high risk of being hit by a boat or getting trapped under one.
In order to be safe, always follow the directions of the boat crew. When boarding, first check if the boat is stable, then hold somebody's hand, put one of your feet inside the boat (not on the gunwhale), put the other foot inside, proceed to the designated seat to let the other person board.
Don't scramble to get on the boat, do not jump into it. Remember, that boarding or disembarking a speedboat is allowed only when the engine is off.
When on a boat
As said above, small vessels are prone to instability, they are not cruise liners after all. Try and do your best not to unbalance the boat any further. The recommendations of Phuket Tourist Rescue Centre, Chalong Pier are as follows:
• If there are chairs set up, sit on them.
• Try to be aware of balancing both sides of the boat when choosing a seat.
• Do not stand on the stern, the gunwale or sit on the roof of the boat.
• Do not relocate without informing the captain/crew and getting their permission.
• Always wear life jackets while on a boat.
• If you use the restroom, inform the staff before you go. Otherwise in the event of an emergency they won't be able to inform you immediately and guide you to safety.
When travelling with children always be aware where they are and what they are doing at any given moment. Sit down with them before your journey to make sure they know the basic safety rules.
Acting in an emergency
Emergencies on board can take different forms, including fires, boat collisions and capsizing to name a few. No one is able predict when or what can possible go wrong, so always wear a life jacket, they are not called LIFE jackets for nothing. You can be an Olympic swimmer, but even a FINA world champion can do little if they end up in the water unconscious after being hit by a heavy object. Life-jacket manufacturers do not question your swimming talents, the jackets are designed for these exact situations, when you physically cannot swim.
If there is an emergency on board or a boat collision, but the vessel is not taking water, wait patiently for instructions from the staff and follow them closely. If the boat is taking water, evacuate the boat immediately and float freely with others from the boat. Make sure to swim away from the boat because water will be sucked into the sinking boat plus there is always a risk of being hit by the vessel or its propellers.
If you see somebody falling in the water or if it happens to you, the first thing to do is informing the boat's crew and other people on board. Other recommendations from the Phuket Tourist Rescue Centre, Chalong Pier are:
1) Do not panic if you fall overboard. Swim away from the ship to get a safe distance from the propeller, then stop and float freely in the water waiting for help.
2) Do not attempt to swim to shore if it is too far away, you can become exhausted and can possibly drown. Raise your hand to attract attention and shout for help.
3) If someone else has fallen overboard, immediately inform the crew then throw safety equipment such as lifebuoys or life jackets to them.
4) If you are in the water, try to find improvised lifebuoys such as pieces of wood and other buoyant objects. Watch out for people who may need your assistance and provide help if necessary.
5) If possible, try to remove your shoes, belt or anything that is weighing you down.
You can report about any emergency and request help via Marine Department Hotline on 1199. Telephone number of Phuket Tourist Rescue Centre, Chalong Pier is 076 383 255. When informed, they will send a speedboat with trained professionals to provide help immediately.
Special thanks to Surachai Burapanontachai, Director, Marine Office, Phuket, for answering all of our queries.