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Phuket Lifeguard Crisis Continues

Phuket, Thu Sep 28 2017
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Beaches on the popular tourist island of Phuket could be without regular lifeguards from Sunday, with the provincial administration organisation unable to sign up a company to provide the service at the price offered.

The PAO has hired Phuket Lifeguard Service Co for the last seven years, but the company says the 19 million baht budgeted for the contract for the next 12 months is insufficient. The budget was 22 million baht for the current year, which ends on Saturday, Sept 30.

The company held a media conference to announce it will not be bidding for the contract at the price on offer. It currently has about 90 lifeguards stationed at 33 spots on 13 beaches around Phuket, and the service will cease from Oct 1.

Acting PAO chairman Watcharin Pathomwattanapong said the organisation has invited lifeguard providers to submit bids, but the tender was incomplete. There were no bids.

It will try to speed up the process and conclude an agreement by Sunday. He said three companies offer the service. However, there is a procurement procedure that must be followed under a new law that become effective on Aug 23.

Phuket governor Noraphat Plodthong said on Wednesday the lifeguard service is significant to tourism, so the province will try to solve the problem.

He said it was the last day for submission of bids. If no company had come forward by then the province would need to discuss the matter with the private sector and figure out a solution for the short term. Mr Noraphat said the province has asked civil disaster prevention volunteers to be ready to man lifeguard stations on the beaches if needed.

The province has, meanwhile, also requested a budget of 38 million baht from the Tourism and Sports Ministry to purchase medical equipment and drones to patrol the beaches.

Prathaiyut Chueayuan, adviser to Phuket Lifeguard Service Co, said earlier the company’s service had been instrumental in making the beaches safer. There were only two deaths from drowning at local beaches in 2016, with a total of 337 rescue operations. In its first year of operation in 2010 staff had helped 1,640 people, but 12 of them died.

For now, lifeguards would continue with their work, including putting up signs informing tourists whether it is safe to swim in the sea, and using the warning flags. But on Oct 1, the signs would say, “Warning. No lifeguards on duty. Swim at your own risk.”

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