27 Apr 2012

Rabaul shipping captain questioned over capacity of ship in PNG inquiry

6:55 am on 27 April 2012

The owner of the Rabaul Shipping company has told the Papua New Guinea inquiry into the sinking of the Rabaul Queen he's adamant the ship was able to carry up to 350 passengers.

The Commission of Inquiry into the sinking has previously heard that the ship was surveyed to carry 295 passengers and up to 15 crew.

Megan Whelan has more.

"Current estimates are that around 220 people lost their lives when the vessel sank, while 237 were rescued. Captain Peter Sharp reiterated to the inquiry that the Rabaul Queen was not overloaded, because it was being loading to the same capacity as its sister ship, the Solomon Queen. However, the counsel assisting the inquiry, Manuel Varitimos, questioned whether the ships were the same, given differences in size, depth and gross tonnage. Mr Sharp said the ships were essentially the same and admitted he had advised staff that 350 people could sail on the Rabaul Queen. However, he admitted making a request to the Department of Transport to increase loading to above 310, which was refused."