ALOR SETAR: All passenger ferry services by Dragon Star Shipping have been suspended, said Malaysian authorities on Tuesday (Feb 26), a day after one of the company's ferries caught fire.
The vessel was en route to Kuala Perlis from Langkawi island when a fire broke out in the engine room at about 2.45pm.
All 52 passengers, plus five crew members and the captain were rescued. Two passengers were taken to hospital.
“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),” said Azman Nasrudin, chairman of the Kedah Agriculture and Agro-Based, Transport and Primary Industry Committee.
Dragon Star’s operations were suspended for a month last October, after one of its ferries was stranded at sea for eight hours, Azman said. That ferry had been on its way to Langkawi island from Kuala Kedah.
“We will take into account all reports and complaints made by the passengers against the ferry, including the strong smell of fuel,” Azman said at a press conference, referring to the latest incident.
“We will not hesitate to recommend to the transport ministry to cease the company’s operations."
Azman also denied allegations made by passengers that there were not enough life jackets on the vessel. He said that the jackets were under the seats.
TIME TO REVIEW SOP FOR FERRY SERVICES?
The ferry that caught fire on Monday was 28 years old and had undergone periodic inspections before it was authorised for use, according to Langkawi Marine Department Officer Ghadzali Ahmad, who added that the ferry was last checked in January.
“The documentation inspection was also done and the ferry was in good condition to operate,” he said.
However, it is probably time for the authorities to review the SOP for ferry services, said Kuah state assemblyman Mohd Firdaus Ahmad.
“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.