ALOR STAR: All Dragon Star Shipping Sdn Bhd passenger ferry services have been suspended with immediate effect after one of its ferries caught fire yesterday.
Kedah Agriculture and Agro-Based, Transport and Primary Industry Committee chairman Azman Nasrudin said this was to enable the Marine Department to conduct a detailed investigation to determine the actual cause of the fire.
“This is the second time the company’s operations have been suspended. The forensic investigation will take about three to four days, and we will see if the company followed the fixed standard operating procedure (SOP),” he told a press conference at Wisma Darul Aman here today.
The company was first suspended for a month last Oct when one of its ferries was stranded for eight hours in the middle of the sea while on its way to Langkawi from Kuala Kedah.
“We (the state government) will take into account all reports and complaints made by the passengers against the ferry, including the strong smell of fuel, and if the allegations are proven to be true, we will not hesitate to recommend to the Transport Ministry to cease the company’s operations,” he said.
In the incident at about 2.45pm yesterday, 52 passengers aboard the Dragon Star 1 ferry suffered a huge scare when it caught fire just after leaving the Kuah Ferry Terminal in Langkawi and heading to Kuala Perlis. They were all rescued by boats and other ferries nearby.
Azman also denied allegations by passengers that there were not enough life jackets on board the ferry, saying the jackets were placed under their seats.
Meanwhile, Langkawi Marine Department officer Ghadzali Ahmad said they had conducted periodic inspection on the 28-year-old ferry before authorising its use, adding that it was last checked in Jan.
“The documentation inspection was also done and the ferry was in good condition to operate,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kuah state assemblyman Mohd Firdaus Ahmad said it was time the Marine Department and relevant agencies changed the SOP for the ferry services.
“What happened yesterday was an early sign that it’s time that the SOP, including setting an age-limit for ferries, is reviewed and changed to avoid a recurrence,” he said. — Bernama