19 Oct 2010

New Tonga ferry checked ahead of planned launch

6:56 pm on 19 October 2010

Tonga's Ministry of Public Enterprise and Industry says the government is thoroughly checking the new ferry's safety before officially launching it.

The MV 'Otuanga'ofa , which translates to mean friendly islands, has arrived in Nukualofa after being built in Japan and replaces the Princess Ashika which sank last year.

The new 53-metre vessel can carry up to 400 passengers plus 22 crew members and 400 tonnes of cargo.

The ministry's director, Inoke Vala, says the ferry has taken a number of years to build and cost close to 20 million US dollars, which was funded by the Japanese government.

He says safety is a top priority after the Ashika sinking.

"Well I've seen what I'd expect to be on the boat in terms of lifesaving, there is a little speedboat perhaps for picking up people and things like that. What's inside some of the enclosures, Im told there are liferafts inside."

Inoke Vala says a start date is expected to be confirmed soon for when the new ferry will begin sailing to the outer islands.