Home > Corruption, Human rights, Papua New Guinea > PNG ferry overloaded, unsafe: report

PNG ferry overloaded, unsafe: report

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments


A FERRY which sank in stormy seas in Papua New Guinea, claiming as many as 161 lives, was overcrowded, unsafe and unseaworthy, according to a damning report released by the government.

The MV Rabaul Queen went down in rough weather on February 2 after it was hit by three large waves which capsized the vessel, flinging some of those on board into the sea and trapping others below deck.

The report by the PNG Commission of Inquiry was unable to determine how many people were on board because there was no manifest, but said it was carrying at least 392, and possibly as many as 411 people, despite a maximum capacity of 310.

The commission said on Wednesday the Rabaul Queen was unsafe for the overnight voyage from Kimbe to Lae because, among other things, it did not meet appropriate standards for the 4- to 6-metre waves and gale force winds.

The commission said it considered the ship was unseaworthy and should never have departed Kimbe because it was not manned by a competent crew and did not carry lifejackets for children.

“Simply put, the ship should not have been where it was in the conditions that were present on the morning of 2 February 2012,” it said.

It said the operator Rabaul Shipping and its master, Captain Anthony Tsiau, 54, failed to consider the best weather information before the ship sailed or during the voyage, despite a government warning of gale force winds causing very rough seas.

The inquiry said passengers had described conditions on board as “packed” and “overloaded”, saying people were sitting shoulder to shoulder on the decks and could not stretch out their legs.

“At the time of the sinking, the owner of the Rabaul Queen, Captain (Peter) Sharp, had been compromising the safety of passengers and crew on all his ships for a number of years,” Deputy Prime Minister Leo Dion reportedly told parliament.

“Ships were regularly overloaded, they sailed in unsuitable weather conditions and the fleet was poorly maintained,” Dion said, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The inquiry found that after a night at sea, a large wave hit the Rabaul Queen at 6.15am and before it could fully right itself, a second smashed into the ship.

As water began to flood in, a third wave hit the exposed hull and the 21-year-old Japanese-built passenger ferry capsized off the coast of PNG’s second largest city, Lae. It sank so quickly the master did not broadcast a mayday signal.

When rescue ships began to arrive at the scene some three hours later, they pulled 246 survivors from the water. Four bodies were also recovered.

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