4 Nov 2009

NZer who bought Tongan ferry did not 'know' ships

6:12 am on 4 November 2009

A Royal Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of the Tongan ferry, Princess Ashika, has been told the New Zealander who bought the vessel knew nothing about ships.

The ferry sank in August this year with the loss of 74 lives.

John Jonesse, the manager of the government-owned Shipping Corporation SCP, has been giving evidence after two earlier witnesses testified to an advanced level of corrosion on the vessel and gaping holes.

Mr Jonesse, who bought the ferry on behalf of the Tongan government, said he never looked into the state of the vessel's hull.

He said the ferry was in a good mechanical order when he bought it on behalf of the Tongan government and that was his main concern.

Pesi Fonua from Tonga's on-line news service Matangi Tonga says it is clear Mr Jonesse was inexperienced but he failed to seek advice before buying the vessel.

Mr Fonua says Mr Jonesse went to Fiji to inspect the vessel without the benefit of an engineer or anyone else who could provide advice.

He says questions have also been raised about the ferry's documentation.