1 Mar 2010

Tonga ferry inquiry told of culture of non compliance in maritime industry

6:16 pm on 1 March 2010

The commission of inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika heard from its last witness on Saturday, with the former Tonga Transport minister, Paul Karalus, again blaming his subordinates for the disaster.

The commission has been hearing evidence on the sinking, which claimed 74 lives, since late October and has now adjourned until late next week when final submissions will be made.

Don Wiseman has more:

"Paul Karalus maintained his position that while he had erred in saying due diligence had been completed, the fault lay with the former Director of Marine, Bill Johnson and the suspended CEO of the Shipping Corporation, John Jonesse. Mr Karalus, who had told the Prime Minister, Cabinet and King George Tupou 5th that the ship was surveyed and sea worthy, now accepts that he saw no documents that could support this conclusion. He accepted that the vessel sale was an as is/where is arrangement with no guarantees of fitness for purpose. He says he was very badly misled. Mr Karalus also told the inquiry that there's a culture of non-cooperation and non-compliance with regulations, codes of practice, direction and instruction within the maritime industry. He says there's a culture of big egos and know-it-alls. The Commission's report is due late this month."