Anyone who’s following the news about Halong Bay knows there’s been some misfortune on these waters in recent months. In February, a tourist boat sunk, drowning 12 passengers. Then another tourist boat went down in May, though 28 French passengers escaped harm in that incident.
In the wake of those misfortunes, more than a few passengers have asked me lots of questions about safety measures on Emeraude Classic Cruises. I’ve blogged about this before but the subject warrants another blog today.
A few weeks ago, more than 500 Halong Bay cruise boats went on strike. The authorities had announced a batch of new safety measures for boats on the bay, effective immediately, and the boats went on strike until the authorities delayed implementation of the rules.
Do I think these new rules are onerous and overly burdensome? Absolutely not. Over the past five years, I’ve watched an ever growing fleet of tourist vessels, most of them wooden junks, take to these waters and I’ve wondered about their compliance with the regulations. I don’t wonder about the Emeraude’s compliance because we’re way ahead of the game.
The new rules call for a GPS on board. Some time ago — long before the rules called for it, in fact — we made an investment in a high-tech GPS that’s very expensive and very sophisticated, though very easy to use. So easy to use that my dear grandmother, were she with us today, could guide this boat to port in a storm.
Next time, you’re on board, come and check this thing out. It’s got a three dimensional display. (The water’s flat, but limestone karsts are not! Hence the need for that extra dimension.)
I didn’t use a GPS when I was running boats up the Mekong in the early 1970s (probably because the technology hadn’t been invented then). Nor did I use radar or sonar, or a gyrocompass, but all of that is aboard the Emeraude today.
When my passengers bed down at night, when I bed down at night, I know that we’re all going to be safe. We’re all going to wake up safely and we’re all going to ogle the karsts again, no matter the weather.
I understand that not every vessel on the bay is as well-heeled as the Emeraude. We can’t all afford every last high-tech safety measure. We French have an expression: ‘Understanding is forgiveness.’ But I’ve got to break with that very empathetic rule of thumb here. I understand that not every vessel on the bay can comply with these regulations, but from now on – or I should say from September on — there’ll be no forgiveness for sloppy seamanship.
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