Solomon Star HONIARA, Solomon Islands (March 31, 2010) - With the Easter period now here, more people will be traveling to their nearby islands such as Isabel, Russell, Savo, Ngella, Malaita, Guadalcanal and Makira for the long weekend.

For most people getting to their villages means going by boat or ship. In times like this, most of the inter-island ferries will be loaded as people rush to get home to celebrate this long Easter weekend.

Over the past days, most inter-island ferries have announced that they will be making short trips to the nearby islands. However, overloading is most probably one of the issues which most ships will most likely to experience in coming days.

The marine division, over and over again, has reminded the public and the shipping operators to take note of this issue when departing for their destinations. There have been complaints from the public that some of the shipping operators and charters care more about money than lives.

This is because they want more people to board their vessels with little regard to the danger overloading poses to the vessel and the passengers. Accidents happen any time and the Marine division is aware of this and always reminded the captains to carry passengers and cargoes according to their legal capacity.

This Easter period may not be as what the country used to experience during the middle of the year and Christmas and New Year period. But the public and boat operators must always be vigilant in their actions.

Overloading is not a new thing for the country. It’s a normal thing for outboard motors and local vessels to be overloaded because of ignorance.

Captains or skippers have an important role when loading passengers in their respective ships. Overloading during bad weather is one of the problems with people going out in outboard motors.

The recent incident where some people traveling back to Vella La Vella from Gizo sunk should be a learning example for many people going by outboard during bad weather and being overloaded.

Whether it’s fine or bad weather, but people should take precautionary measures.

Early this year, MV Bikoi 1, which was owned by Shortlands Shipping Company Limited, was in the spot light for overloading that nearly resulted in the boat being capsized near Munda after being struck by waves.

With the demand for shipping to the Western province and even Malaita the two provinces have experienced ships being overloaded during the Christmas period.

I was in Gizo on my vacation when MV Bikoi 1 arrived from Honiara and heading down to Shortlands. That boat was packed with people. Fortunately the weather was fine and the ship was able to reach its destination. If it had been a bad weather, it would have been another story. There are many ships that sail to the provinces, which are overloaded but were not detected.

During the peak period like the Christmas and New Year period, police along with the Marine division have played an important part in ensuring safety first for the passengers by controlling the number of passengers going onboard. This does not mean we should control number of passengers boarding our boards during the peak times but for the normal times as well.

For safety, everyone has a responsibility to ensure ships carry no more people than available life rafts.

As the shipping sector becomes busy this weekend, don’t forget that the safety of passengers should always come first.

To all the sailors, happy Easter celebrations and bon voyage.

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