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Boat snags account for 42% of emergencies at sea.

Abu Dhabi: Around 42 per cent of emergency situations reported by boats out at sea during the first half of this year related to vessel malfunctions, the Critical Infrastructure and Coastal Protection Authority (CICPA) reported.

The CICPA responded to 517 emergency calls this year on its emergency number 996. Only three deaths at sea have been reported in this period.

"This is why the first rule of venturing out to sea is to check that your boat is in good shape," said retired Marine Brigadier Mohammad Juma Al Otaiba who survived a shipwreck 30 years ago. Al Otaiba was speaking at the launch of the fourth maritime safety campaign Bihar that took place last week.

According to CICPA, residents also called the maritime emergency hotline to complain about disturbances, illegal activities, drowning incidents and missing persons in addition to technical errors on board vessels.

Speaking at the event, Staff Navy Brigadier Salem Al Kindi, Chairman of the Bihar Campaign Higher Committee said: "We take these loses very seriously and are hoping to reduce the number down to zero in the coming period. All boats in the UAE are fitted with tracking devices that help us determine where fishermen and other seagoers are located in cases of emergencies."

Experts urged people venturing out to sea to steer clear of protected areas and to always wear life jackets.

Al Otaiba recounted how he survived his ordeal. "After discovering that our boat sank, my crew and I swam for 12 hours before finding an island. During this time, five of them died trying to swim against the current. The most vital piece of information after always remembering to wear your life jacket is to swim with the current," he said.

He also noted that people often forget to abide by safety requirements especially when they are on board a large boat. "It is useless to have a life jacket on board your vessel without actually wearing it because if anything happens you would have to find it and wear it while everything around you happens very quickly. Additionally, many people often overload their boats with more than the recommended number of individuals. This can be very dangerous," he added.

Some of the most common threats at sea include sudden weather changes, wear and tear of the vessel and running out of water and food on long journeys, experts say.

This year's initiative will focus on educating high-school and university students on the different precautions that need to be taken when going out to sea.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Oct 25, 2014
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