SIBU: An incident where the engine of a Daro-bound express boat caught fire should serve as a wake-up call on safety to operators.
Assistant Transportation Minister Datuk Dr Jerip Susil urged boat operators to ensure that their boats were always in good condition, especially during the Gawai Dayak festival.
“Passengers must always wear life jackets during the boat ride,” he said after launching Gawai Dayak Operation here.
“This is a wake-call to every river transport. We are very concerned because the level of awareness on safety is not high yet.
“That is why our officials are trying to put all safety measures in place,” he said.
He said the officials from the Sarawak Rivers Board (SRB) were also conducting constant checks to ensure that all rules and regulations were strictly followed.
“There was also a ferry incident in Lundu recently. So we are getting tough on boats and their passengers’ safety.
“Only those who have permit can operate,” he added.
Dr Jerip said the Sibu-Kapit and the Kapit-Balleh/Putai sectors along the Rajang River were expected to register high passenger traffic amid the Gawai celebration.
In the 2016 Gawai Dayak Operation, Sibu Expressboat terminal recorded 8,000 passengers daily while terminals at Kapit and Song registered some 4,000 each. Belaga wharf saw 2,000 passengers.
The river patrol operations, involving the Marine Department, police, Rela, Civil Defence Department and Domestic Trade and Consumerism Ministry, will be divided into two stages – from May 22 to 31 and June 5 to 11.
The patrol team will also monitor speedboat operations.
The authorities are expected to be very strict with operators found overloading their boats with passengers.