NEWS

Lack of care causes sea accidents

The number of people who have lost their lives or suffered injuries at sea due to sea sport enthusiasts violating basic navigational safety regulations when operating speedboats, jet-skis and other vehicles used for sea sports is horrific. Sometimes, however, the accidents happen due to the error of swimmers, who often overestimate their capabilities. Ministry figures Since 1997, there have been 36 deaths and 50 injuries to bathers as well as to people engaging in underwater fishing and even to those riding in the speedboats or on jet-skis, according to official Merchant Marine Ministry figures. Specifically, eight bathers have been killed and 18 injured; 12 divers have been killed and seven have been injured, and there have been 16 deaths and 25 injuries to people who had been riding in sea vehicles. According to coast-guard officials, such accidents at sea are generally due to human error – not just of the «perpetrators» but of the «victims» too. «Often, those operating pleasure boats are not familiar with basic regulations for safe navigation or they do know them but violate them because they believe that anything goes at sea and nothing bad is likely to happen,» coast-guard officials told Kathimerini. «A certain amount of responsibility – for want of a more appropriate term – should also be attributed to the victims in these situations who often swim out very far from the coastline where speedboats tend to circulate, or who engage in underwater fishing without taking the necessary measures to protect themselves, such as using a special buoy to alert those operating speedboats or jet-skis to their presence,» the same officials said. Systematic inspections Over the last few years, when the number of pleasure boats in operation has skyrocketed, coast-guard officials have started conducting systematic inspections in order to identify the offenders. According to ministry figures, a total of 23,298 inspections were conducted over the weekends between the beginning of June and the end of August last year. These led to 1,921 violations being identified (8.25 percent of the total number of inspections). Meanwhile, 1,580 alcohol tests were conducted, but only five people were found to have been operating speedboats, jet-skis and the like under the influence of alcohol. This year, a total of 1,203 violations have been recorded out of the 13,010 inspections that have been conducted at weekends since the beginning of June. Meanwhile, five people – out of a total of 505 tested – were found to have been under the influence of alcohol when operating a speedboat or jet-ski. The ministry has issued a list of guidelines for those operating pleasure boats or vehicles used for sea sports, as well as for bathers, to ensure that accidents are kept to a minimum this year: – Bathers should not swim beyond existing boundaries in the sea which are marked out with buoys. When such markings are not in evidence, then bathers should not venture further than 100 meters from the shore. – Those who engage in underwater fishing should always carry a special buoy which announces their presence to speedboat and jet-ski operators; in addition, they should not venture into «routes» which are frequented by speedboats and vehicles used for sea sports. – Those operating speedboats, jet-skis and other vehicles used for sea sports should stay at least 100 meters away from the shore. When they want to come into shore, they should reduce speed to the minimum and ensure there is a person at the bow of the vessel to keep an eye out for bathers in the area. – Those operating jet-skis and the like should never approach areas used by larger coastal vessels.