18 Jan 2010

Tongan officials still looking for replacement ferry

9:28 am on 18 January 2010

Tonga's Ministry of Transport is still trying to find a suitable interim ferry to run an interisland service.

Tonga's government needs a passenger and cargo vessel to replace the sunken Princess Ashika, while a new one is being built in Japan with aid money.

The Secretary to Transport Eleni Mone says they had hoped to be able to get a boat from New Caledonia before Christmas, but the owner sold it.

She says its back to the drawing board, and a vessel that's in Europe is one option.

"Further searches have indicated there might be a vessel that might be ready to come down to Tonga for March. So thats more or less where we are at now. There were other options that were being looked at, but as of now we have still not yet got an interisland ferry to help with the transportation of Tongans between our islands here in Tonga."

Eleni Mone says Tonga's new boat is on track to be ready by October.

She says they are grateful for efforts being made by NZAID and the Australian government to assist.