8 Dec 2009

Tonga eyes New Caledonia vessel as interim replacement for Ashika ferry

6:18 pm on 8 December 2009

An official at Tonga's Ministry of Transport says a vessel has been found that could be used as an interim inter-island ferry.

Tonga's government and NZAID have been trying to find a vessel to replace the sunken Princess Ashika while a new one is being built with aid funding from Japan.

The Acting Marine Director, Viliami Tuipulotu, says they are keen on a vessel used in New Caledonia by Reef Shipping.

He says negotiations are ongoing as the boat would need a few modifications.

"It's very hard to get the perfect ship but I guess everybody here and at NZAID they're doing their best. I know people should be aware that it's hard to get the perfect size, the width and the size of the ramp for the islands not (only) here for Nukualofa but for Haapai and the other small islands as well. And these small details, we really do need to look into."

Viliami Tuipulotu says the plan is to still get an interim ferry up and running in time for the holidays.