Inspections, increased regulation set for sea-walker companies following tourist’s death

Friday, 02 May 2014 By  Warunya Thongrod

The Marine Department plans to inspect a dozen unregulated companies offering “sea walker” diving trips in Pattaya.

At an April 26 meeting with Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh, Marine Department of Ship Standards Thongchai Pongvichai said his staff will check the operation and equipment used by tour operations selling diving trips in which customers walk on the sea floor using surface-supplied air.

He also plans to meet with operators to regulate where they operate so the zones can be protected by buoys. Currently, he said, the operators hop around from zone to zone depending on marine conditions.

The checks by the Marine Department come after an Indian tourist died during an excursion off Koh Larn. The fatal incident - not the first in Pattaya - again shone light on an industry that even Pattaya officials publicly admit has operated for a dozen years without any real regulation.

“(Chonburi’s) governor has become increasingly worried since zoning models to increase safety for swimmers and jet skis were implemented, but safety in sea-walker diving has not been mentioned and no regulations have been implemented,” Ronakit said during a March 25 meeting with sea-walker companies.

Local, regional and national officials have been aware of the risks posed by unregulated sea-walking businesses since 2002, when the Science and Technology Institute and Tourism Authority of Thailand met in Pattaya to say that sea-walker companies could operate, but must coordinate with the standards set by the authorities. Today they still have no direct oversight.

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