Following a public outcry over a series of incidents involving navy officials falling overboard, the navy has announced it will install surveillance cameras on military vessels and have officers work in shifts to monitor surveillance cameras to prevent further incidents.
The incidents in question involve a non-commissioned officer (NCO) surnamed Lin (林) in March, 2010, who fell overboard from the Chinchiang-class (錦江級) ship Hsinchiang and a sailor surnamed Chien (簡) falling from a Lafayette-class ship in April last year.
The incidents led the families of the victims to question whether the deaths had been caused by the navy’s negligence.
While the navy maintains that the corporal and NCO failed to take necessary precautions, the Control Yuan said after an investigation that the navy had management issues and ordered it to take measures to improve its safety.
However, the measures proved sufficient, because only a month after being implemented, navy Corporal Chen Ping-chan (陳炳昌) fell overboard from the Hsinchiang.
According to the higher echelons of the military, the series of incidents has embarrassed Chief of General Staff Admiral Lin Chen-yi (林鎮夷), who comes from a navy background, leading Lin to order research on the viability of installing surveillance cameras on military vessels.
Since the navy concluded its research and deemed the measures viable, 12 Chinchiang-class patrol boats have had surveillance cameras installed, with additional search-and-rescue boats being outfitted with surveillance cameras as well.
Navy Command Headquarters Political Warfare Bureau Director Rear Admiral Lin Tien-liang (林天量) said yesterday that while some ships have already installed surveillance systems in an effort “to safeguard the safety of the crew, it is also a test of the efficacy of the systems.”
The surveillance systems are mainly being installed on military vessels of lower tonnage because these vessels might have a lower seakeeping tolerance, leading to men being thrown overboard under bad weather conditions, Lin said.
Larger-class vessels, such as Perry and Lafayette, are not yet being considered for such systems, Lin said.
However, ship crews are doubtful about the measures, saying that the incidents of seamen falling overboard were caused by poor management of the ship’s crews. Crew members further complained that the addition of monitoring surveillance cameras would only add to an already heavy burden of day-to-day ship affairs.
Association for the Promotion of Human Rights in the Military director Chen Pi-e (陳碧娥), disagreed with the military, saying that the addition of surveillance systems on the military ships did not solve the problem.
Chen also said that the military has been unable to provide logical and reasonable explanations to many of the questions the family members of the victims raised.
Installing surveillance cameras on military ships was “only a move aimed at protecting the military because it is not able to prevent accidents. The most important thing that the units must ameliorate their loose organization structure,” Chen said.
Translated by Jake Chung, Staff Writer