12 Aug 2009

Navy divers believed to have found sunken Tongan ferry

7:12 pm on 12 August 2009

New Zealand navy divers in Tonga have found what they believe to be the Princess Ashika ferry which sank a week ago, claiming as many as 95 lives.

It was found by the navy's unmanned explorer vessel using sonar equipment.

But the navy say they can't be certain it is the ferry until a remotely operated vehicle can be used to give visual confirmation.

Because of deteriorating weather conditions that is unlikely to happen before Monday.

However Andrew McMillan of the New Zealand Dive team says a recovery operation is beyond the reach of the Tongan, New Zealand and Australian navies which have been working together on the search.

"The problem we have is that the vessel is at 110 metres of water and that's too deep for both the Australian and New Zealand Navy diving capabiities that we have here. So what we will do is use our remotely-operated vehicle, or ROV, that's able to go down to that depth. It has a video camera on it and we will be able to film the ship, including the name plates, which will confirm for us whether it's the Princes Ashika or not."

Lieutenant Commander Andrew McMillan