22 Dec 2009

Negligence admission in Tonga ferry sinking probe

2:18 pm on 22 December 2009

The former director of the marine division of Tonga's Transport Ministry has admitted negligence in his handling of the purchase of the Princess Ashika ferry.

Matangi Tonga reports Bill Johnson made the admission to the Royal Commission that's investigating the ferry sinking which claimed 74 lives.

Mr Johnson told the inquiry he never recommended that surveyors from the Marine Division travel to Fiji to inspect the vessel before its purchase, and agreed it was negligent of him not to do so.

He also said he had given John Jonesse, the former manager of the Shipping Corporation, a surveyor checklist before he went to Fiji to look at the Ashika, even though Mr Jonesse was not a surveyor with any shipping experience.

Mr Johnson confirmed he never saw a current survey certicate for the Ashika.

He also admitted that after his retirement in June, he signed a provisional certificate of survey for the Ashika, and authorised the transportation of the vessel to Tonga when he had not concluded it was safe to make such a voyage.

The Ashika inquiry has now been adjourned until January the 12th.