KOTA KINABALU: The Marine Department has to be proactive in preventing boating tragedies and ensuring that the maritime zone is safe for the people. Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (Matta) inbound vice president Datuk KL Tan said the department was the main agency supervising registration and licensing of boats. “It is imperative that the Marine Department exercises its wide powers to prevent boating tragedies in the sea surrounding our country, particularly in Sabah where sea excursions to idyllic islands is one of the main tourist attractions. “Tour boats should only be licensed when fitted with safety, emergency and communication equipment, and tested for stability and structural integrity,” he said in a statement. Tan added the department should also conduct sweeps on illegal jetties, apart from ensuring all ports and jetties are safe. “There should only be a few main jetties on the mainland where tour boats are allowed to pick up and drop off passengers. “Apart from monitoring the boats’ condition, (there should also be) inspection on the licenses and competency of skipper and crew,” he said, adding that they should only be permitted to leave when the number of people matches the passengers’ manifest. He also stressed that tour operators should always prioritise safety and only deal with other licensed operators to ensure the sustainability of sea excursions and the tourism industry overall. Tan added Matta was prepared to work with all government agencies and private sector bodies to create an ecosystem that will benefit everyone.