3 Sep 2012

Report scathing of PNG ferry captain

6:50 pm on 3 September 2012

A Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of a ferry in Papua New Guinea has found it was not seaworthy, unsafe and should never have departed on its final voyage.

The commission's report, obtained by Radio New Zealand International, says between 142 and 161 people died when the Rabaul Queen sank between the island of New Britain and the mainland city of Lae on 2 February this year.

It cannot give an exact number of passengers, because it did not have a clear manifest.

The report says weather and sea conditions at the time of the capsize were gale force and the ship should not have been where it was in the conditions that were present.

The commission found the ship's owner, Captain Peter Sharp, demonstrated that he had little or no respect for people, including those in authority.

It says this "gross disrespect" was reflected in the "appalling and inhumane conditions" in which he was prepared to let passengers on the Rabaul Queen to travel and may explain in part why he was prepared to compromise the safety of passengers on board his ships.

The report also found a number of failures by the Maritime Safety Authority, including that it allowed itself to be intimidated by Mr Sharp.