Sailing in dangerous waters | Times Online

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne writes on the importance of moving the shipping lanes south of Sri Lanka to ensure the safety of fishermen, whales and whale watching boats


A fishing vessel moves out of the way of an ocean juggernaut. Image © Russell Leaper

To the south of Sri Lanka, there is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. The movement of ships takes place in two lanes, one travelling west and another east in what is known as the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS). South of Dondra, this TSS runs as close as five nautical miles from the shore, so the ocean juggernauts using the shipping lanes are travelling through an area densely frequented by coastal fishing vessels.

As a result, a dangerous situation continues to grow in the south of Sri Lanka which on a daily basis places Sri Lankan fishermen at risk of being hit and killed by a large ocean-going ship. As the popularity of Sri Lanka grows for whale watching, the risk also increases of a collision with a commercial ship and a whale watching boat carrying local and foreign tourists.

A brief search on the internet for recent collisions brought up three incidents in 2018 where fishing vessels sank after collision with commercial shipping south of Dondra. In January 2018 and September 2018, fishermen died.Ninety per cent of the ships do not stop at a port in Sri Lanka and there is no requirement for the safety of ships that they should travel so close to shore.

In fact, the case is the opposite. The international....

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