Long-touted marine response center won’t open for at least 6 months

Friday, 07 March 2014 From Issue Vol. XXII No. 10 By  Warunya Thongrod

Pattaya’s main tourist-assistance center, first proposed last summer after a string of deadly marine accidents, won’t be complete for at least another six months.

Speaking at a Feb. 26 meeting of 10 agencies working on improving Pattaya’s marine-safety record, Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh said the city has received 3.5 million baht to build a permanent center at the old pier site in South Pattaya to integrate services that respond to water-related accidents. The center should open in about 180 days, he said.

Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh heads the latest water safety meeting at city hall.Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh heads the latest water safety meeting at city hall.

“When the new center is completed, tourists will have more confidence that their trip to Pattaya city will be safe,” Ronakit said.

Region 2 police, Tourist Police and City Hall officials have been operating since June out of temporary quarters at the existing Tourist Information Center.

The calls for an integrated marine-response center began last spring after 18 South Korean tourists and two guides were hurt in a speedboat collision off Koh Larn. Even as government officials scrambled to raise funds and personnel, the accidents continued.

Seven foreign tourists were killed when an extremely overloaded ferry capsized and sank off Koh Larn Nov. 3. The month previous, an Indian woman was killed by the propeller of the speedboat pulling her parasail. On Aug. 28, two Chinese tourists died and eight were injured when their speedboat crashed into an anchored longtail boat off Bali Hai Pier. And a Thai taxi driver swimming in Najomtien had his throat cut by a boat prop in May.

The proposed center would help prepare equipment in advance of any marine accidents, respond quickly when an accident occurs and provide assistance and counseling to victims after an accident.  The facility would be able to call on the Chonburi Police Station, Tourist Police, Marine Police, Highway Police, Chonburi Immigration Police, four area hospitals and the Sawang Boriboon and Thamma Rassamee foundations’ medics.

Ronakit said the city hasn’t stood idle in the past eight months. Since the center was proposed, officials have implemented marine regulations for banana boats, parasailing, restaurant boats, fishing boats and parking area. Officers have drafted specific routes for ships with buoys to limit speed. Passengers will have to wear life-vests and inspections of ships & captains licenses will be conducted while operators must realize the importance of safety, he said.

In addition, three “integration centers” were opened in South Pattaya, Jomtien Beach and Soi Chaiyapruek, he said.

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