It’s been over seven months since the tragic Four C’s boat explosion. After months of reports, inquiries, and arrests, the Bahamian government is finally addressing the issue of boat safety.
In July, a boat of tourists set out on a Four C’s Excursion to see Exuma’s famous swimming pigs. The day ended in disaster when the boat’s engine exploded, killing one American tourist and seriously injuries nine others.
The boat operating that day was homemade and not registered or inspected by Port Authority. What was even more shocking was the official accident report found that “significant number of commercial crafts operating within the waters of Exuma are not registered with the Port Department despite having submitted valid applications. The mechanical, structural, and safety standards required to be met cannot be verified.”
In fact, unregistered operations in Exuma outnumbered the registered ones. Of the 18 charter boar companies operating in the Exuma Cays, only six are registered. The rest have pending applications but continue to operate.
A Bahamas Maritime Authority report highlighted the issue- the department was severely understaffed.
The Port Department employed only 110 workers, and it was recommended they hire an additional 60-70 to meet demand. Now that’s finally happening. The Minister of Transport and Local Government, Renward Wells, stated that a task force has been established to inspect all vessels operating in the tour-boat industry. Wells said, “We should increase the staff compliments to be able to go through the Family Islands to ensure that self-built boats and commercial vessels brought from aboard; that they all comport with the required specs to be able to be used in the commercial industry. And we went ahead and did that.”
The task force will now go through the Family Islands, systematically checking at all boats engaged in the commercial and tourism industry. They will make sure all operators are meeting the requisite requirements of boat safety and are licensed to be operating.
This task force has been a long time coming. As tourism continues to increase across The Bahamas, especially in Exuma, it’s important the government ensures their safety. The changes shouldn’t stop here though. Tourists and locals need a convenient way to check which charters are licensed to operate. There also needs to be a modern way of applying and granting licenses.
Not everyone is excited about the task force. Many question whether these new employees are trained, and if they’ll actually do proper inspections or just be another hand locals have to bribe in order to operate. While there are still questions that need to be answered, and these concerns are valid, at least the government is finally working on fixing the issue.
This boat safety taskforce is a positive step in the right direction, but it’s only the beginning.