26 Jan 2010

Unsafe Tongan vessel used in emergency

2:40 pm on 26 January 2010

The Tongan ministry of transport says a ferry declared unsafe was allowed to leave port last weekend to attend to a ship in an emergency.

Yesterday, the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating last year's sinking of the Princess Ashika ferry heard that although the 25-year old MV Pulupaki was detained, it sailed with passengers on board.

The secretary for transport, Eleni Mone, told the inquiry yesterday that she was unaware that the ferry had sailed.

But Ms Mone now says she has learned more.

"With a special permission from the ministry, it [was allowed] to sail out in order to attend to another ship in distress over the weekend. No passengers sailed, it's not sailing and is not carrying any passengers whatsoever. In the commission of inquiry yesterday, I was not aware. But I'm aware now."

Eleni Mone says the ferry is back in port.