After an accident between two tourist boats on Halong Bay in October, prospective travelers began asking for an update on the safety standards we follow on Emeraude Classic Cruises. We spend a good deal of time on safety. Here are some FAQs.
Once again, we've seen fatalities on Halong Bay. Is this inevitable, given the tourist traffic, or preventable?
Can we prevent accidents? No, that’s going to happen no matter where you are in the world, whether you’re in the West, the East, anywhere. But what we can do is decrease the likelihood so that the risk is negligible. After four Taiwanese tourists drowned last month, it became apparent that every passenger on a tender, ferrying between a big boat and an island needs to be wearing a life jacket.
What has been the consequence of this recent accident?
Well, the port authorities have now implemented a requirement that everyone on tenders has to wear a life jacket. Another requirement is that a certified captain or sailor has to drive the tender, and you have to have at least one other sailor on board that tender.
How many are certified to drive the Emeraude’s tender?
Our three captains are all certified, of course, and so too is one of our sailors.
What is the worst accident you've experienced on the Emeraude?
Honestly, we’ve subscribed to international maritime safety standards ever since we launched. We’ve never really had an accident. In the beginning, when we were just establishing our routes on the bay, we ran aground on a sandbar for a few minutes, but that was minor. We’ve got a steel hull, and the sand wasn’t an issue.
What do you worry about on the bay?
Other boats. All joking aside, it is a real concern, especially when at anchor. I know what our anchor is like, but I don’t know what everyone else’s anchor is like. Anchors can sometimes pull out. A boat can drift. There can be a collision.
How does the Emeraude’s anchor prevent drifting?
First, during our last dry-docking two months ago, we bought the best anchor you can buy. Then we ran it through a series of tests, trying to drag it by force. You’ve got to make sure your anchor plants deeply, and that the chain holds under the greatest possible force.
How else do you guard against collisions?
Well, first of all, this rarely happens. Most anchors hold fast. But we maintain a watch. Every night, all night, one of our sailors makes a round every hour, to make sure all’s well. That we’re not drifting, and that other boats are not drifting toward us.
How do you know these rounds actually happen?
We trust AND verify. We put in a fingerprint clock system a year ago, so that the sailor on watch records his checks every hour. Our captain reviews that report every day.
What, chiefly, is responsible for what appears to be a rather enviable safety record?
There is the technology. The fingerprint clocks I mentioned. The navigation aids. The steel hull. The hammers in all the cabins and restaurants so that, in the event of an accident, there is a way out the window. Beyond all that, there is the training. Over the past nine years, under the direction of Capt. Jacques LeFur, we’ve trained our crew to international standards. Capt. Jacques is leaving us now, but his legacy remains in the protocols we’ve established over the past nine years.
How much training goes into safety protocols on the Emeraude?
There’s monthly fire and emergency training, led by the captain. Usually, there are several training sessions during a cruise. Every month, the captain reviews safety standards.
Are there days when the Emeraude does not cruise because weather conditions are not safe?
The port authority does close the bay, perhaps a dozen times per year, though we are equipped to go in almost any condition.