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Trying to be safe on a boat in the Philippines

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I started this topic off to learn more following Fordtechs experience in the recent Ferry tragedy


and I take my hat off  to his actions on the day.


To those who have posted words to the effect " never take a ferry in the Phils its too bloody dangerous" well its well nigh impossible if you want to travel in this country.


My personal experinces have been:


Checking out the bridge on a big ferry from Cebu to Samar - broken compass, no radio, AIS but no radar

Travelling on a ferry ( not a banca) with forward facing hatches that did not seal.

My friends being marooned on the same ferry when it inexplicably grounded on a reef- total panic the crew dissapeared and only reappeared to demand the lifejackets be given back when the passengers were being transferred to other boats!


On another banca from Calbayog to an island in Samar where the boat got a hole in it -total panic a mass of people threw themselves to the other side of the boat and not enough lifejackets


Same route different boat - bent its prop leaving the river to the open sea, no steerage, emergency management by commitee foundered around in the open sea for 3 hours the Coast guard didnt have a boat to rescue us . Return to dry land achieved by a fishing boat taking out the anchor rope  and the men on the boat hauling it back in.

Bad weather where the boat had to divert couldnt handle the waves and current jorney took an extra 3 hours but the Captain did demonstrate good boat handling.



So wht can you do to reduce the risk? I am putting up these ideas as much to learn from others


Don't take the ferry in bad weather -although sometimes it is hard to get a good  weather forecast locally


Don't travel on a dodgy ferry - difficult when its sometimes the only means of transport available. I have only spotted defects whilst moving around the boat I am actually travelling in.


Learn to swim- thats one thing ,but dealing with getting out of a submerged vessel is another- I know because in my job  I have to undergo Helicopter Underwater escape training we only do it every four years and you need to practice it to be proficient we also get a rebreather device which gives us an extra minute or so to get out.


Carry your own lifejacket along with a whistle and a waterproof light in a grab bag


Discuss with your partner or family what you plan to do in the event of an emergency


Carry an EPIRB or Personal locator beacon - difficult in the Philippines, I  did some research and found a reference to the possible authority that dealt with this for registration but he details seemed sketchy. and wanting to buy an EPIRB contacted the manafacurers of  the ACR brand because I liked the fact that their PLBs have an aerial this is important if your dunked in the sea when wave height can effect whether your distress and locator signal get transmitted to the satellite.

Here is what the email  fom the company said





Ok, I shall try to give you all the answers and some advice.


1.       If you use a kayak, you could possibly look at something like a PLB 350B or 375 (ResQLink). They are less bulky and can also be used on land. Output power is the same as an EPIRB, only difference is the transmission time (around 30 hours vs an EPIRB’s 48 hours.)

2.       An EPIRB is considered a beacon for marine vessels and when you register one, they want the vessel’s name etc.

3.       The rule of thumb is that when you buy an EPIRB, the unit needs to be registered to the flag of the vessel (country where it is registered). When you buy a PLB, the beacon is registered to the country where you are a permanent resident (citizen). This is actually more of a law than a rule of thumb.

4.       When you activate your beacon in an emergency, the signal will be relayed to the country where you have registered your beacon. They (SAR) will drive the logistics to get to the location of transmission. If I register my beacon with NOAA and activate it in Africa, the signal is relayed to NOAA, then to the USCG and they work in conjunction with the SAR forces in the closest region of the beacon’s transmission point to get to me.

5.       As far as I can ascertain, the Philippines does not have a beacon registration data base. This means that you will not be able to register the Philippine coded beacon.


As to the last statement I am waiting to here back from the Puerto Galera Yacht club about registration.


The only other thing i have done is hire my own banca to make trips to an island from Calbayog at Christma and Easter but it is suprising how many "cousins" find out about a possible free trip and want to fill the boat up.


So if anybody has any critiscisms or suggestions please make them as I said at the start of this post I am here to learn and I still need to travel by boat when I am here.






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I would suggest that a decent cellphone with dual sim and fully charged battery is a must. A waterproof ziplock style container and have it safely on your person. Most ferry traffic here is within line of sight of land and there is SOME possibility that a sim will get a signal. Of course, knowing who to call is vital, since just calling a cousin may not be of much use if they don't know who to contact or how to describe where you are.


Having your own life vest is helpful, especially of it is a inflatable type can easily be worn or carried. I'd be uneasy about having a vest with a compressed gas filler.

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As a Rescue Diver I would have to say that too much swimming is not a good idea unless you have to. You quickly lose core body heat from the extremities (arms and legs) if you wave them about too much.

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Hy H

I think odds of something like what happened to Fordtec are not really that frequent and off course exposure to incident like that is lesser if you travel only sometimes compared to need for weekly or daily journeys.

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