Interferry project identifies ‘paramount’ lessons from Philippines safety boost

A lineup of ferries in Cebu Port

The FERRYSAFE project team formed by global trade association Interferry to study pronounced safety advances in Philippines ferry operations has completed the second of two visits to the country and is now developing best practice guidance to assist the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other developing nations.

Week-long visits were made to political capital Manila in March and ferry capital Cebu in late May.  Lessons learned suggest there is no ‘silver bullet’ solution to explain how ferry fatalities in the Philippines have gradually fallen from highest in the world over the past 50 years to being much closer to the global average during the current decade.  However, industry-wide discussions consistently identified some paramount factors, notably:

  • government willingness to facilitate change
  • the development of reasonably stringent regulations
  • weather-dependent prohibition of sailing permits (no-sail policy)
  • the presence of local enforcement personnel
  • the importance of insurance and insurance surveys

The FERRYSAFE project team in Manila. From left to right: Mr Johan Roos, Mr Edwin Pang, Dr Neil Baird, Mr Nelson Dela Cruz

In Manila, 44 informal interviews were held spanning shipowners, operators, regulators, naval architects, shipyards, classification societies, surveyors, insurers, the coastguard authority, tourism agencies, customers and media commentators.

The follow-up Cebu visit involved a further 22 interviews, including meetings with top national and regional officials from the maritime authority MARINA and the Cebu Port Authority. The team also visited shipyards, observed several Philippines Coast Guard pre-departure inspections and undertook seven ferry crossings on vessels of wide-ranging type, age and size.  Additional insights came from a three-hour session with highly engaged members of the regional Passenger Ship Spotting Society – one of whom survived a ferry capsize in 2005.