The head of the United Nations maritime agency today offered to help Tanzania investigate the cause of the weekend ferry disaster in which nearly 200 people died when the boat sank off the coast of Zanzibar, and find ways of preventing such accidents.
Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), voiced his profound sadness for the loss of life in the sinking the ferry, Spice Islander I, on Saturday.
“We are shocked at the number of lives lost and have offered any help and technical assistance which may be required,” said Mr. Mitropoulos in a statement.
Media reports indicated that the ferry capsized between the Indian Ocean islands of Pemba and Unguja, which are part of the semi-autonomous Tanzanian archipelago of Zanzibar.
Mr. Mitropoulos praised work of the Dar es Salaam sub-centre of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in coordinating the rescue effort. The sub-centre confirmed to IMO that so far 187 bodies had been recovered and 619 people rescued.
While IMO regulations, including those contained in the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), do not apply to ships trading on domestic routes, IMO has worked with a number of countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to improve safety on so-called “non-convention” vessels, according to Mr. Mitropoulos.
Model safety regulations for inland waterway vessels and non-convention craft, including fishing vessels operating in Africa, were developed in 2001 with IMO assistance.
The regulations were agreed to by representatives of Burundi, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe, according to IMO.
They are aimed at providing a regional safety and pollution prevention standard for new vessels and barges, as well as existing vessels and convention-sized ships that trade regularly on inland waterways and at sea on non-international voyages, and for personnel working on board.