The Maritime and Port Bureau (MPB) of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), in an effort to provide more benefits to the physically disabled, has made improvements to the accessibility of seagoing vessels. Beginning on March 26, 2018, the MPB has used assistive methods to encourage maritime operators to install accessibility facilities and equipment. Currently, 44 passenger vessels have lodged applications for such improvements. It is expected that 21 lines will be able to provide accessible passage to the disabled after the improvements are made this year.
MPB Director-General David Hsieh said of the initiative that according to the latest statistics from the Ministry of the Interior, there were 3.26 million senior citizens (aged 65+) in Taiwan, representing 13.83% of the population, at the end of 2018. Accessibility facilities promoted through the Friendly Seas Environment initiative is not just aimed at benefiting the disabled; it also allows senior citizens to travel unimpaired by physical limitations. The MPB has spared no effort in helping local governments to improve their harbors and has urged maritime operators to make their facilities more accessible for the disabled.
Liu Jin-zhong, representative director of the League for Persons with Disabilities, notes that the experience of going out to sea, with gentle sea breezes and fantastic sunsets, is truly wonderful. However, in the past, people with disabilities were unable to experience the sea since embarking, disembarking, and moving onboard were all very challenging. Now, with more government effort to improve onboard accessibility, there are far fewer obstacles to disabled people who want to travel by sea: lower thresholds, accessible gangways, more wheelchair rests, and more facilities and equipment for accessible disembarking.
The MPB said in a statement that ships need to consider such elements of safety as structure, stability, and watertightness. Cabin doors should be adapted with appropriate thresholds to deal with turbulence from choppy waters. Ship bodies should be slender, which helps to reduce water resistance. Cabin and lifesaving facilities are necessary, making the design of the overall space complex. And after the completion of a ship, it is rather difficult to make changes to the existing structure. Such conditions make realizing onboard accessibility a challenge.
The Passenger Ship Accessibility Subsidy Program, implemented by the MPB, encourages passenger ships to carry wheelchairs specially customized for onboard use, ramps for passage through cabin doors, and other facilities and equipment necessary for onboard accessibility. Currently, 39 vessels on 18 lines support accessibility services, including: Taipei-Pingtan, Budai-Magong, Kaohsiung-outlying islands of Penghu, Tainan-Penghu, 2 lines in the outlying islands of Penghu, Keelung-Matsu, 2 lines in Matsu Mini Three Links, 3 lines in the outlying islands of Matsu, Kinmen Mini Three Links, the outlying islands of Kinmen, 2 lines in Taitung-Orchid Island-Green Island, Houbihu-Green Island, and Dadaocheng-Guandu-Danshui; in addition, 5 ships on another 3 lines, namely Penghu Baisha-Cho Island, Baisha-Daiso, and Baisha-Yuanbei, are expected to be ready this year.
Onboard surveys will be conducted this year by disabled committee members, who are invited by the MPB to assess the actual state of accessibility onboard. This will be followed by the initiation of the QR code inquiry system for vessel information, which will provide accessibility information for disabled passengers when choosing transportation.
Contact Person: Vessel Management Division Section Chief Lin Guan-hong
Contact Number: 02-89786296 0932-220231