Director of the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre, Jack Bana, in praising ship owners and their crews for their part in developing Solomon Islands, reminded them of putting safety first when travelling.

In his first disaster awareness broadcast through the Solomon Islands Broadcasting Corporation (SIBC), Mr. Bana acknowledged the role seamen play in moving a lot of goods and materials between the islands, contributing to development all over the country.

At the same time, Mr. Bana also called on all ship operators to ensure their ships are sea-worthy and have all the necessary equipment to aid their passengers in case of emergencies during this time of the year.

He reminded them of two important things to watch out for at this time of the year, which is overloading and lack of life saving equipments.

Mr. Bana stressed on the vital need for such equipments to be in place in light of an emergency situation taking place.

He warned that the Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre will be very vigilant on the seaworthiness of ships.

"It is often the case in the past that some boats are not seaworthy but because of the peak period, and the intention to make more money, some operators run such ships, which is a risk to people's lives."

Mr. Bana warned ship owners that with support from the police, they will be checking all boat loadings this week until further notice.

Apart from marine and police officers on the wharf, two police patrol boats will also be cruising to check boats out on sea.

"If they see any discrepancies, the boats will pull the ships back to the wharf," Mr. Bana warned. "It must be known that what we are doing is not to cause inconvenience to those wanting to go to their respective home islands, but to ensure that everyone travels safely."

These measures will also be applied to outboard motor boats.

Mr. Bana revealed that OBMs have, and continue to, account for the highest number of deaths in the country.

The Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre will also be tough on alcohol consumption on boats.

"While we have no right to stop the public from drinking, we have a responsibility to ensure that safety rules are adhered to onboard," Mr. Bana said.

He added that drinking on ships or boats is risky for those who drink because they could fall off without anyone seeing them.

"Moreover, they are not traveling alone but with women and children."

The division appeals to all boat owners to ensure their boats report their positions everyday during this time of the year.

All ships within the country are required by law to report their position twice a day - 0900 and 1500.