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Pay attention to briefings

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Pay attention to briefings

Wed, 26/02/2020 - 18:24

As guests on board a liveaboard, and day boats for that matter, we also need to take responsibility for ourselves, paying proper attention to the safety briefings provided at the onset of the trip and making a note of where the escape routes are—just like one should do when boarding an airplane.

“... and the exits are located two at the front, two over the wings and two in the rear. Please take a look around you to locate the nearest exit, bearing in mind that the closest one may be behind you.”

The international dive community was shocked and grief-stricken when the news broke of the devastating fire that consumed the award-winning California-based liveaboard Conception and the 34 people who perished, including divers and crew members. The accident struck close to home, as many of us have taken dive trips on liveaboards at some point. Some among us had even been on that particular vessel.

The thought occurred to many of us that “it could have been me.” The divers on board who likely died of smoke inhalation were much like any of group of divers we might know. Then, reflection set in. How could this have possibly happened? Should one worry about going on a liveaboard again? Is it safe?

The matter of investigating the accident rests with authorities such as the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the Marine Board of Investigation (MBI) and the US Coast Guard (USCG), and their work is still ongoing. Until this process has come to a conclusion and findings and recommendations have been published, it is best to refrain from speculation.

That said, it is our understanding that the vessel was reportedly in compliance with applicable regulations and had been regularly inspected to that effect. This fact seems to raise the question of whether or not the said regulations are suitable for present-day liveaboard operations—at least those that applied to Conception, which was built in 1981, almost four decades ago.

Operators respond

We have spoken to a number of liveaboard operators, and while their vessels are far more modern in the first place, each one of them have further reviewed their safety measures, procedures and policies. Changes these operators mentioned they made after their review included adding more hatches and escape routes as well as additional crew on watch, and prohibiting charging of batteries in cabins or at night.

As guests on board a liveaboard, and day boats for that matter, we also need to take responsibility for ourselves, paying proper attention to the safety briefings provided at the onset of the trip and making a note of where the escape routes are—just like one should do when boarding an airplane.

Travelling by air has become very safe in no small part because airlines and manufacturers of aircraft have learned from past accidents and continually develop better safety products and protocols. It is both encouraging and reassuring to learn that liveaboard operators seem to have adopted a similar mindset and have already taken the lessons from the Conception to heart by implementing improved measures and protocols. With all that being said, I think we should also focus on enjoying our next dive trip.

— Peter Symes
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief

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