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August 2007    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 33, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Safety Concerns on Liveaboard Boats

from the August, 2007 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

On February 14, Sal and Lucille Zammitti, owners of the Bamboo Reef dive shop in San Francisco, started a 10-day dive trip in the Maldives aboard the M.V. Giulia, a 100-foot boat only two years old. Sal wrote about his experience in a letter to California Diving News

* * * * * * * * * * *

After boarding and cabin assignments, we made an early-afternoon dive. Then Lu decided to take a nap before dinner, while I went topside to familiarize myself with the boat and crew. At 7:30 p.m., I was near the stern of the boat, talking to the chef, when all the power went out. Then a large ball of fire shot out from the sternís port side, followed by large amounts of smoke pouring throughout the boat.

I immediately made my way down below to our cabin to help my wife. Smoke was already in the cabin, and belowdecks was in total darkness. I found our cabin and helped Lu back up the stairs to the main deck. There, the crew helped us onto the dive boat, which was tied alongside Giulia.When everyone was onboard, 14 guests and 10 crew members, we pulled 100 yards away. The only things we got off were the shirts and shorts we had on. The Giulia was now totally engulfed in smoke, and we could see an orange glow in the engine room portholes. Within an hour, the entire boat was engulfed in fire, with flames reaching 50 feet into the air. The boat burned to the waterline and sank at 3:39 a.m.

Thankfully, everyone got off the boat safely but it could have been very bad. There were no smoke detectors or emergency lighting anywhere on the boat. We want to encourage everyone to be aware of safety concerns on liveaboard boats. Ask safety questions before you travel: Does the boat have emergency lighting? What type of fire suppression system does it have? Does it have smoke detectors? Smoke detectors are available for travelers; put one outside your cabin door when you arrive on the boat. Keep a small flashlight easily accessible in your cabin. Ask that the safety briefing be giving as soon as possible, not after the first dinner.

Hopefully, if divers are aware of boat safety and begin asking these questions, we can make operators more aware as well so they will add these safety features.

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