I recently met John, who works as a health and safety officer on a ferry boat in British Columbia, Canada. Like myself, John had been traveling on the local ferries between some of the islands of Krabi. I asked him his assessment of the saftey of the ferry boat system.
He scoffed. "What safety?"
"Well I noticed the big boats do have lifejackets."
"And they don't float" he shot back. "Did you look at the dates printed on the life preservers? Nineteen-sixty-seven! Those things are old."
"And the life rings -- at the bow of the boat! What use are they up front? You put them at the stern. That's they only way you have any chance of getting it anywhere near the guy who has gone overboard."
I mentioned my own concern: the boats were usually crowded with dozens of passengers sunning on the decks. But the lifejackets were in the cabin below. In the event of an accident, I said I didn't think the people on the decks would be able to access the lifejackets down below, with all those in the cabin trying to exit.
"The cabin is set low in the water." John replied. "That means the boat will go down like a rock. There won't be time."
Bangkok needs to enforce international boating safety standards on its ferry boats. The boats aren't cheap, and the least passengers have the right to expect safe passage for their money. Additionally, with the daily terrorist attacks taking place in the nearby Southern Provinces, it is incumbent that Bangkok put basic security measures in place at the ports. The ferry boat system is utterly vulnerable, and needlessly so.
UPDATE: Concerning the Canadian ferry service where John works, recently investigors issued a report on the sinking of a large ferry off the coast of British Columbia that occurred just last year. A Canadian reader of Jotazine writes "it includes a number of ferry safety recommendations that might be useful for ferry administrations elsewhere." Here is the report on the "Grounding and Sinking of the Queen of the North."