IDC Guide

Diving boat incident in Phuket

This is a rare occurrence of a problem that happened to a day dive boat in Phuket, the company involved were my personal favorite day dive company for a long time while I was diving with clients from Chalong in Phuket and I am glad they have been credited with providing a good service after experiencing the double whammy of bad weather and mechanical failure. The following is from the company giving some information of the incident:

I would like to clarify some things regarding the much-reported incident on Thursday July 14 and also thank some people involved.

First, the boat did not sink. It did not capsize or even list at all. Nobody was in the water. Nobody died. There were in fact no serious injuries whatsoever. One passenger had a minor cut.

Second, the boat was seaworthy and has passed a full inspection by the marine authorities. It had major refurbishment and service ahead of the high season and recently underwent some gear box maintenance. Incidentally, the gear box and the engine worked fine and still do.

Third, I was on the boat that day. Until the arrival at the shipyard. I am happy to set the record straight.

This is what actually happened:

Thursday 14 July was an uneventful day until the afternoon. As usual there were contingency plans for diving elsewhere had the weather been bad. The weather was in fact fine in the morning and stayed so into the early afternoon, when the weather very rapidly changed and not in a manner consistent with earlier weather reports. Heading back, some waves were coming from several directions at once. Of course the boat will take on water. Most any boat will.

Our boat has three pumps, one running straight off the engine and two electrical pumps which run off batteries. The bigger of the latter two pumps is brand new and was installed on Saturday 9 July 2011. We continually upgrade the boat, even in the low season.

Usually the main engine pump is more than enough even in very rough seas with one (1) electrical back-up to assist if needed. This has been the case for many years but unlike previous years, the boat had two (2) back-up pumps on Thursday.

For some reason the two electrical pumps failed. One permanently, one intermittently and this one later came back on after some superb crew work. The main pump was working but water levels were higher than usual.

Now, it is very possible that the boat could have made port in Chalong on its own. But keeping the passengers onboard would have made for a late and uncomfortable arrival in the dark. More importantly, we take absolutely no unnecessary risks where passenger, staff and crew safety are concerned. Hence the decision to stop in sheltered waters at a nearby island and immediately arrange for an evacuation of the passengers and dive staff as a precaution. Naturally we also issued life vests.

The speedboats duly arrived and picked up the passengers and dive staff in an orderly manner. A nearby fishing boat assisted and towed us back while our engine and batteries ran the two working pumps. All water was hereforth kept very comfortably at bay. The boat arrived at the shipyard at about 02:45 on Friday morning and is now in a dry dock.

That is it. It was no more dramatic than that.

We kept the passengers informed throughout. Many of them have since praised us for the manner in which the whole incident was handled. One passenger, a Flight Captain flying for a major European airline, said that in his considered, professional view we handled it just like flight crew are trained to do if anything out of the ordinary happens. Of the sixteen guests onboard, six came back for fun diving the very next morning. A lovely Australian couple who were onboard have already commented online in a local Phuket newspaper and been very gracious. In short, the passengers seem not to have been particularly fazed by their experience.

I thank the Royal Thai Navy, the Royal Thai Police and all the Rescue Services in Phuket, as well as the speedboat company assisting them for their quick and professional response. The airline pilot was very impressed that Phuket has such an efficient operation in place.

The people of Thailand certainly have every reason to be proud of their Services and the fine men and women who work there.

Thanks to all the dive staff onboard for their cool and calm demeanour throughout. Thanks also to the diligent Thai office staff at various Phuket dive centres who assisted so well in coordinating everyting.

Heartfelt thanks to our hard-working crew and Captain. They worked from the start to ensure that this had such an undramatic outcome and didn’t escalate into something bigger.

I finally give thanks to the Captain, crew and owner of the fishing boat that so kindly assisted us. Their Thai cheerfulness and good humour throughout was amazing to behold!

We will inspect the boat carefully in the shipyard over the coming weeks. There was some damage to the top front deck ahead of the wheelhouse during the actual towing itself – as can be expected under the circumstances – but the hull and superstructure are intact, as is to be expected. This is one sturdy boat

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