Area officials have suspended operations of Koh Larn Travel Co., the operator of a ferry that sank last year, killing seven tourists.
Banglamung District Chief Sakchai Taengho and Pattaya Deputy Mayor Ronakit Ekasingh announced suspension of the city’s contract and the company’s authority to operate seven ferries to the island at a meeting July 17. Officials said that, since the November accident, the number of complaints against the ferry operator have skyrocketed, tarnishing Pattaya’s image.
Officials have told Jaruk Ngamkaew, owner of Koh Larn Travel Co., to clean up his act or risk losing his contract with the city.
The deaths and injuries aboard the Koh Larn Travel I occurred not only because the captain was abusing methamphetamines while working, taking the boat off course, but because it was severely overloaded and lacked sufficient numbers of life jackets and flotation devices.
Marine officials halted operations of the company’s seven remaining ferries for immediate inspection and, eight months later, only half the vessels have returned to service. The result has been a strain on the company’s operations.
Complaints have mounted about price gouging, abandoning passengers on Koh Larn, not providing promised services and unpredictable pickup and return times. The company’s practice of having motorbike taxis prey on passengers as they get off the boat also has stoked the ire of customers, many of which have gone online to lambast the company and Pattaya City Hall for doing business with Koh Larn Travel.
Politicians summoned company owner Jaruk Ngamkaew to the meeting to demand changes to resolve the complaints and an immediate audit of the entire ferry operation.
Sakchai told the company it must reorganize its pickup and delivery system, which currently are made at seemingly random locations, making it difficult for marine officials to keep tabs on the operation. Sakchai said future pickups and drop-offs must be done at a specific location at Bali Hai Pier at the time specified on the ticket.
The district chief also told Jaruk to end all contracts with motorbike taxis and put a tour guide on every boat to help passengers coordinate the additional travel plans,
He said if the company does not make the required changes, its contract will be terminated permanently.