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February 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 27, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Raja Ampat Liveaboard Goes Down in Flames

from the February, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

On the morning of December 29, the five passengers aboard the Mandarin Siren went for a dive at Manta Sandy in northern Raja Ampat. Undercurrent subscriber Thatcher Hayward (Cambridge, MA) was the first to surface an hour later and saw thick black smoke coming from the aft of the boat. "I got on the launch and started screaming profanities because I knew I wouldn't get any of my things back," says Hayward. Luckily, there was no explosion - - the crew safely got all the tanks off the boat, as well as themselves - - but the Mandarin Siren went down in flames.

Worldwide Dive and Sail, the boat's owner, states that the origin of the fire is not yet confirmed, "but we believe it was caused by an electrical fault of the tumble dryer in the laundry room, and it quickly spread to the engine room." From now on, Worldwide Dive and Sail mandates that tumble dryers on all its boats not be left unattended while in use, and dryer filters will be cleaned after each cruise instead of every six months.

Worldwide Dive and Sail (WDS) gets kudos from the affected divers for how they handled matters between the fire and the flights taking everyone home. A satellite phone to sister ship Indo Siren got a launch to pick them up for a 40-minute ride. Everything salvaged from the boat was brought to the Indo Siren. Except for one diver whose bag with credit card and passport was luckily spared, the other four were left with just the dive gear on their backs. Then a three-hour boat drive to Sorong, where WDS paid for hotel rooms, toiletries and clothes. After they flew to Makassar, co-owner Frank Van Der Linde escorted them to Jakarta and gave them each a proper hotel room and US$500 to tide them over before the trip home. Hayward says the U.S. consulate was equally considerate. "Everything was closed for the weekend but the vice consul invited us to his house, where he had our passports waiting for us." All guests were able to catch flights home within 48 hours of the accident.

Don Dunlop, WDS's marketing representative, says company insurance will cover the loss of the divers' personal items. "If the guests' possessions were not covered under their own travel insurance policies, they should be under this one." While WDS's policy is not to reimburse guests for the money they spent on the trip when there are "unforeseen events," Dunlop says the company decided to offer the divers a free trip in the future. "The guests we have heard back from are happy with this arrangement but if any are not, then we shall of course refund for the number of days missed, as per our terms and conditions."

For guests who held bookings on upcoming trips, WDS is giving a full refund, doing its best to find alternative arrangements in Raja Ampat, and refunding the difference in price, if any.

Hayward says he's happy with how WDS handled matters, especially the fact that it said it would guarantee that all the displaced Mandarin Siren crew would still keep their jobs. He is definitely taking WDS on its offer for a free trip but next time, he's getting trip insurance. "I lost $11,000 worth of personal items, which WDS says it will reimburse, but I learned a valuable lesson for the next trip."

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