22 May 2012

Ferry inquiry in PNG hears how ferry owners stopped counting passengers

7:30 am on 22 May 2012

A port official has told the commission of inquiry into the Rabaul Queen ferry disaster that a process for ascertaining the number of passengers on inter-island vessels had earlier been stopped by the company running the ship.

The commission has now heard five weeks of testimony into the tragedy which is thought to have claimed more than 200 lives when it sank while sailing from Kimbe to Lae.

Don Wiseman has more:

"One of the matters in front of the commission of inquiry is just how many people were on the Rabaul Queen. It has established the vessel was packed with passengers and carrying many more than it was surveyed for. The Operations Supervisor of the PNG Port Authority in Kimbe, Wesley Baloiloi, told the inquiry until about 3 years ago the Authority would count passengers, and enter the information on a Passenger Manifest. It would be paid a fee based on these numbers but Rabaul Shipping, the owner of the Rabaul Queen, would submit its own list, typically a much lower number. The fee would be based on this information and the Authority's correct details thrown out. Mr Baloiloi could not say why they allowed the company's low count to be accepted. Eventually Rabaul Shipping won a court action asking for the Authority's count and the fee payment to be dropped."