NDMA Guidelines On Boat SafetyAbout eight people drowned and 25 went missing after a private boat carrying 60 people capsized in the Godavari river on 12 September. There are some guidelines on boat safety.

  • In another such incident, nineteen persons drowned when a boat overturned in the Godavari in May 2018.
  • Despite so many frequent boat accidents in the Godavari and Krishna rivers causing loss of many lives, no precautionary measures are being taken to prevent them.
History of guidelines on boat safety
  • National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has been mandated, under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 to issue guidelines for the management of disasters that periodically affects normal life and well being of the people.
  • But it was not until the Dhubri ferry tragedy of 30th April 2012 on river Brahmaputra causing loss of over 250 lives that led the NDMA to decide to prepare National Guidelines on Boat Safety after consultation with stakeholders.
Reasons for boat/ferry accidents According to NDMA, following are the main reasons that contribute to boat/ferry accidents in most of the inland waterways -
  • Understaffing/Unqualified crew
  • Severe overcrowding
  • Ageing vessels
  • Lack of regulatory standards
  • Faulty boat design and stability
  • Operators distraction
  • Reckless operation of the boat- Many times, boat accidents occur due to over speeding of boats or watercraft. In addition negligence in boat operations also cause accidents.
  • Unruly or rampant passengers
  • Reckless skiers- Reckless skiers performing illegal or dangerous stunts around boats may cause an imbalance of boat.
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol
  • Inexperienced operator
  • Equipment failure- Boat accident may also be caused due to the failure of equipment on board of boats or personal watercraft.
  • Poor weather conditions- This is a major contributor to many serious boating accidents, especially accidents that involve the loss of the vessel. It is important to pay attention to weather advisories so that you are not caught in conditions that your vessel was not designed to handle.
NDMA Guidelines On Boat Safety: Following are some points that denote some guidelines on boat safety:- 1. Construction and Structural Strength- The design, construction and materials of the hull structure as well as machinery and equipment should be suitably designed to ensure safe operations of boats for the intended services. 2.Freeboard and Stability- 
  • Freeboard is defined as the minimum vertical distance from the waterline to the top of the deck at the side in case of a decked boat or to the top of side in an open boat.
  • The freeboard values are assigned by certifying authority ‘Indian Register of Shipping’ according to the applicable rules.
  • The Freeboard values increase with the length of the boat.
  • For Decked Boats of length Up to 7 meters -120 mm freeboard is recommended.
  • For Open Boats of length up to 7 meters- 240 mm freeboard is recommended.
  • Stability of a boat is checked by the certification body (Indian Register of Shipping).
3.Registration Number and Seating Capacity on Board
  • Boats must be mandatorily registered with the local statutory body such as Inland Water Transport Department of the concerned State.
  • Since overloading is one of the common reasons of boat accidents, it is necessary to determine the maximum number of persons that can be safely carried on each boat and clearly marked on the boat.
  • The carrying capacity of the boat should be primarily determined by stability and space considerations.
  • The floor space required may be based on8 square meter per person.
4.Monitoring and Maintenance
  • The operators should conduct a vessel’s hull out of water examination at least every 3 years and 2 years in case of wooden vessels, which should be documented.
  • In addition, the external components of steering and propulsion machinery and shell fittings should also be examined out of the water.
5.Safety Briefings
  • At the start of every trip, the master operator or another crew member should give a safety briefing to passengers.
  • The safety briefing should consist of restrictions about the movement on board, emergency procedures, location of emergency exits, storage and use of personal protective equipment such as life jackets and lifebuoys.
6.Wharves/ Jetties
  • The availability of proper infrastructures at each wharf/Jetty for embarkation and disembarkation are equally important for safe boating.
  • It should be the responsibility of local authorities to provide adequate facilities.
  • Appropriate stairways and landings should be provided wherever any variation in water level exists in rivers or harbors
7.Safety standards for Non-mechanized Boats
  • Life-Saving Equipments- Every boat should have IRS/MMD approved life-saving equipment conforming to latest SOLAS/LSA Code requirements.
  • Lifebuoys- At least one lifebuoy should be provided for every 5 passengers, with a minimum of 2 lifebuoys per boat.
  • Life jackets- Passengers should be provided with life jackets before the journey begins.
  • First Aid Box- should be kept essentially in every boat
  • Fire Safety- At least one multipurpose portable fire extinguisher of a recognized standard should be carried in all the vessels navigating in inland waterways.
  • Navigation lights and Sound signals- The Vessels operating at night should be equipped with navigation lights as required by the local authority and appropriate sound signaling equipment should also be provided in all vessels.
  • Communication Equipment- The mobile phones are normally sufficient for this purpose provided operation area has signal coverage. In other cases, portable VHF may be required.
8.Safety standards for Mechanized Boats
  • In mechanized boats, safety standards must be followed as a top priority, especially to ensure that machinery failure is avoided to avert potential disasters.
  • It must also be ensured that propulsion machinery is in good condition.
  • An important safety measure for mechanized boats is the possibility to apply reverse thrust which may be achieved by means of gears that may enable boat operators to quickly stop the boat for avoiding a possible collision.
  • In addition, prevention of fire and explosion in boats should also be ensured important safety measures for mechanical boats.
  • The moving parts and hot surfaces are to be protected so as to minimize danger to people during normal movement of vessels.
  • All fuel tank vents should be fitted with a ‘flame gauze’ and carried above the tank top level, to above a height of personnel standing next to the engine or to a level where there is no danger of escaping fuel or vapor.
  • Petrol tanks for outboard motors should have quick connection shutoff devices.
  • In mechanized boats, safety measures for fuel storage tanks should be undertaken with utmost caution and safety.
  • Arrangements of charging facilities for batteries should be ensured on board, so that
boat machinery is started /operated through batteries smoothly.
  • Each vessel should be provided with emergency steering in case of main steering failure.
9.Bilge Pumping/ Drainage Arrangements
  • All the vessels should have means of bilge pumping either by a power-driven pump or a hand pump so that all compartments can be drained during an emergency.
  • In case of small open boats operating in areas with small wave height of less than 0.6 m, drainage with the help of bailers or buckets may be sufficient.
10.Implementation Plan- Roles & Responsibilities of various agencies
  • The responsibility of the implementation of safety standards and specifications primarily rests with the state governments.
  • The Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) may be requested to extend the scope of application of model rules to boats, which could then be adopted by state governments.
  • The respective departments in all the concerned states may be empowered to implement the rules.
11.Search and Rescue
  • At the time of any tragedy, with the support of local volunteer teams, as above, the State SDRF (supported by NDRF Battalion personnel, if/wherever necessary,) would be in charge of rescue operations gainfully assisted by the local authorities in the search & rescue operation.
  • Current Practices- Agencies like Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI), State IWT, SDMA SDRF, Riverine Police, Local administration and local bodies like Ghat Union of Boat drivers, etc. are involved in advising/subscribing to the smooth operation of boats and vessels.
  • However, no single agency performs as a nodal agency for matters related to search and rescue.
  • Quick Reaction Teams- Well trained and equipped Quick Reaction Teams of locally trained volunteers, Police, Home Guard/SDRF should be placed at pre-designated Ferry Ghat or docking points so as to carry out quick & effective rescue operations.
  • Mock Drills- There should be regular mock drills and tabletop exercises of all the stakeholders in the States & Districts.
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)- Responsibility of each stakeholder/ establishment needs to be fixed well in advance in the form of Standard Operating Procedure Coordinated emergency rescue plan.
  • Accident Management Plan- Boat Accident Management Plan prepared by all agencies such as local Boat operators, Ghat Owners, Panchayat Raj Institutions, Block, District& State will incorporate detail guidelines.
  • Emergency Search & Rescue- The past experience has shown that 80 percent of search and rescue operations are carried out by local communities. Trained and equipped volunteer teams consisting of local people should be constituted in the area where boats are frequently used as a means of communication and transportation to respond quickly and effectively at the time of such tragedy.
  • Skill Development of Crew Members and Passengers- The crew members should be skilled in handling all kinds of emergency situations besides their routine duties on board.
  • Medical Support- All the wharfs dealing with passenger traffic must have well maintained and equipped the medical room with trained staff including doctors and paramedics.
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