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Homesingapore sportCall for safety measures, changes to floating barrier after fatal kayak accident...

Call for safety measures, changes to floating barrier after fatal kayak accident off Sentosa

SINGAPORE: Notorious, treacherous, a “washing machine” – this is how some kayakers have described the waters at the southern tip of Sentosa where a kayaker capsized and died.

Ms Chew Jia Tian, 33, who went out kayaking with friends in that zone, capsized and went missing on Oct 22. Her body was found off Sentosa two days later.

In the wake of the accident, kayakers who frequent the area told CNA that it is especially tricky to paddle there.

The difficulty navigating the fast-moving currents is compounded by having a blue floating security barrier surrounding the area, which can be a hazard for inexperienced paddlers.

These security barriers have been installed around Singapore since 2014 and are part of measures to secure Singapore’s coast. They help to deter potential intrusions by high-speed craft and illegal immigrants, the police coast guard was quoted as saying in a Straits Times report in 2020. 

The stretch along Sentosa coast was added around 2020. 

Water sports operators on Sentosa said that the barrier does not pose a problem in calmer waters, but from Tanjong Beach heading to the Southern Islands, the currents in that channel can be strong and unpredictable.

Mr Sim Cher Huey, founder of KayakAsia, said: “Many incidents have happened at the exact same area. It’s a hazard for inexperienced paddlers and those without proper safety equipment or knowledge of currents.”

MOST USERS ABLE TO NAVIGATE AROUND BARRIERS: CANOE FEDERATION

The Singapore Canoe Federation said it had discussions with the authorities in 2021 about the position of the security barrier, which “led to a more favourable alignment”.

“Although there have been incidents of collision with the security barriers, most sea space users are able to navigate around them without incident,” the federation said. 

Veteran kayakers had suggestions on how to make the area safer. Mr Sim proposed that the blue barriers can be aligned with the direction of current flow, so it does not become a “trap”. They could also be aligned closer to the shore, outside the flow of the current.

It would help if there was another opening at Tanjong Beach, where many kayakers launch from,  so they do not need to paddle within the blue barriers to get to existing openings outside Sentosa Cove.

The Singapore Paddle Club advised those paddling around Sentosa and the Southern Islands to take precautions as the currents in the area can be challenging due to the topography of the area.

“If you are not a proficient paddler, stay within calmer waters near the shoreline between Siloso beach and Tanjong beach. Even if you are a proficient paddler, should you intend to paddle in any unfamiliar area, it is safer to be accompanied by (someone) with an in-depth understanding of the environment, navigation marks and obstacles there,” said the club’s president Ng Daojia.

“We encourage the use of common sense and caution when planning your paddle. Water-based activities can be carried out safely with sufficient education, awareness and preparation.”

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