The young Panamanian fishermen aboard a drifting panga called Fifty Cent could have been saved if the cruise ship captain on Star Princess had recognised their plight. Bird watchers aboard the cruise ship - equipped with powerful binnoculars - spotted the stricken panga with the young crew aboard and alive - waving desperately for help. The sighting and obvious distress was reported to the crew and the Bridge was notified.
The Captain decided not to investigate the panga. He recorded in his log that he spoke to the fishermen by radio and changed course to avoid the nets. This has been proven to be false. The boat had no radio. Any true sea-farer would have recognised that a small panga 150 miles off shore was likely to be in trouble and recognised the need to investigate.
The fact that yet another Cruise Ship Captain is in the hot seat for his judgement, raises the question of training and whether it is adequate. There is a pressing need for the merchant fleet to have officers and crew who understand the elements and the realities of life at sea.
Sail Training is a way to improve the training of the merchant navy by giving them a great understanding of the sea the winds, currents and the vessels that venture out on these waters.
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