PHUKET: The Phuket Marine Office has begun making their annual inspections of boats and ferries carrying tourists out of Rassada Pier to ensure their safety during the New Year holiday.

More than 13,000 locals and tourists are expected to depart from the island’s piers during this holiday’s long weekend.

“Passengers’ safety remains our top priority. Boats must not carry more than their maximum capacity,” said Phuripat Theerakulpisut, acting director of the Marine Office Region 5. “They also must be equipped with enough life jackets for everyone on board.”

“All passengers, especially on speedboats, must be wearing life jackets or else the boat will not be allowed to depart.”

Speedboat operators have also been warned not to breach the 5-knot speed limit in congested areas, particularly when approaching or departing from Rassada and Chalong piers.

The Thailand Maritime Enforcement Coordinating Center Area 3 has been alerted to lend a helping hand to those affected by accidents, as well as to make sure that all tourist boats are equipped with Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) to quickly locate any vessel in distress.

Tourist boat operator Bunsong Ruangpanichpiban, managing director of Andaman Wave Master, noted that tourist arrivals during the New Year’s holiday have increased 20-30 per cent compared to other holidays this year, but decreased 20-25 per cent when compared to the same period last year.

“There are about 2,000-2,500 passengers departing from Rassada Pier every day,” Mr Bunsong said. “Most of them are Europeans and about 10 per cent of them are Chinese.”

Mr Bunsong pointed out that the reason for low local tourist numbers is that Thais tend to travel up north whenever there is an extended holiday.

“I can assure you that our top priority is always customer safety, even when it is not a holiday,” Mr Bunsong said.

— Kritsada Mueanhawong