23 Mar 2011

Lawyer says Ashika first mate fulfilled duty

3:25 pm on 23 March 2011

The lawyer for the first mate of the Tonga ferry, MV Princess Ashika, has rejected claims that his client failed to perform his duty on the night the vessel sank.

The trial of four men, including the first mate, Semisi Pomale, is drawing to a close in Nuku'alofa with lawyers making their final submissions.

The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, which operated the vessel, is also charged over the sinking, which claimed 74 lives.

Falemaka Fihaki reports from Tonga:

"Mr Pomale was in command on the night of the sinking until the captain was woken just before the tragedy took place. 'Ofa Pouono, the counsel for Mr Pomale says his client fulfilled his duties by giving directions to the crew in regards to the problems reported to him. This included ordering the pumping of the right ballast tank when the vessel tilted right, bailing out water and other efforts to overcome the water entering the vessel. Mr Pouono told the court Mr Pomale had done all in his power to make sure things were in order during his shift. Submission from the prosecution will be heard on Thursday morning and may take more than a day before Justice Schuster gives his summary."