17 Oct 2007

Vanuatu Maritime Authority seeks insurance assistance for ferry owners

12:12 pm on 17 October 2007

The Vanuatu Maritime Authority is seeking assistance from the government to provide insurance cover for inter-island ferry owners.

This follows an incident earlier this month when three people fell overboard from an inter-island ferry, MV Southern Star, and drowned.

The VMA chairman, John Les Napuati, says while the vessel's capacity was meant to be 75 passengers, there were estimated to have been more than 270 on board.

Mr Napuati says many of the country's 80-odd ferries are in a poor state because the owners can't afford to meet the safety requirements.

"I think at the moment one of the major requirements is the insurance which still most of the vessels do not have - at the moment - in Vanuatu. So we're trying to seek assistance from the government to give us at least five million vatu for us to set up an insurance company for the ship owners. I think the majority of the ships here are very old, they're simply too old for the companies to insure them."

Meanwhile, the Southern Star has been detained by the VMA, and the government has instigated a Commission of Inquiry into the circumstances of the drownings.