July 28, 2021 — The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) held a ministerial meeting yesterday (June 24th) in which the Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) reported on the “Joint Inspection and Supervision on Strengthening Navigation Safety of RO-RO Passenger Ships” project. Minister Wang Kwo-Tsai affirmed that the MPB has taken the initiative to conduct joint inspections of three large roll-on/roll-off (RO-RO) passenger and cargo ships, including the “TAI HWA”, “TAI MA”, and “TAIMA STAR”, in order to strengthen the navigation safety to outlying islands. Problems were identified through potential risk assessment, and the inspections were extended to safety management and seafarer management, while early preventive measures were taken to effectively increase the ship safety rate to 100%. The MPB was also instructed to extend the implementation to other passenger ship lines, and to introduce remote inspection technology and digital inspection records. Prior to the completion of the construction of the New Taiwan-Penghu Cruise and the New Taiwan-Magong Cruise, the MPB should continue to closely assist the local government in proper maintenance and management. Additionally, the MPB should regularly strengthen emergency response drills to protect passengers’ lives, property, and safety.
According to Director-General Yeh Hsieh-Lung of the MPB, “TAI HWA”, “TAI MA”, and “TAIMA STAR” are very important large passenger and cargo ships that regularly operate on Taiwan’s domestic Penghu and Matsu routes. They can carry more than 500 passengers on a single voyage, while the “TAI HWA” can carry thousands of passengers at a time, which is more than five times the capacity of air flights on domestic routes. However, both the “TAI HWA” and “TAI MA” are more than 30 years in age, while the New Taiwan-Penghu Cruise and the New Taiwan-Magong Cruise vessels are not expected to be completed until 2023. Therefore, the MPB launched the joint inspection project in November 2020, thereby ensuring the navigation safety of these ships and the uninterrupted transportation of people and goods to the outlying islands. In addition to the two safety measures of the existing statutory inspection and classification inspection requirements, a third line of defense has been added by enlisting scholars and experts with practical experience in the management of vessels of this category to provide more forward-looking and practical opinions. Through the collection of ship voyage and maintenance records from the past five years, the inspections have been extended to company safety management and seafarer competency management, so that preventive improvement measures can be taken at an early stage. The establishment of a strict management mechanism will help with continuous tracking of vessels to ensure that improvement measures have been implemented. As a result, since the project first started its implementation six months ago, the reliability rate of the three large passenger and cargo ships has been effectively improved, with all three vessels maintaining a level 100%. This is an excellent result.
The MPB said that it will continue to follow the instructions of the MOTC to assist in supervising the local governments of the outlying islands. It will also help the relevant shipping companies to maintain the vessels properly, and to discuss specific measures that can be expanded to the inspection of other passenger ships. Furthermore, the MPB will introduce the application of relevant technologies to effectively improve the efficiency of ship inspection and ensure the safety of navigation.