28 Oct 2009

Tonga ferry sinking inquiry shown evidence of vessel's poor condition

7:18 pm on 28 October 2009

The inquiry into the sinking of Tonga's Princess Ashika ferry has seen graphic photographic evidence of the poor condition of the vessel.

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the August 5th tragedy, which left 72 passengers dead, got underway in Nuku'alofa this week.

A government marine engineer, Mosese Fakatou, showed slide photos of the ferry which revealed massive holes in the cargo deck, heavily corroded sides and floor and blocked vents that stopped water running off decks.

Mosese, who inspected the MV Princess Ashika to establish seaworthiness the day it set sail on its final voyage, also took photos of worn safety rails and ropes and the entrance gate which was broken and badly rusted.

Many Tongans have claimed that the boat, which was bought by the government from Fiji just six weeks before the tragedy, was not fit for use.