20 Dec 2013

Sunken Solomons ferry belonged to election hopeful giving free tickets

6:41 pm on 20 December 2013

The Solomon Islands ferry that sank this week reportedly belonged to an election candidate who gave out free tickets.

Maritime safety officials are expected to lay charges over the sinking of the MV Francis Gerena, which was carrying more than three times its legal number of passengers.

All were rescued after it took on water off the coast of one of the Gela group of islands on its way from the capital Honiara to north Malaita.

But our Solomon Islands correspondent Dorothy Wickham says one of the reasons it was so overloaded was because its owner allowed free passage.

I think people who are actually planning to run in elections, they shouldn't use these opportunities to further their causes. It's not good for the communities, they put people's lives at risk. Now, if they had people die, what would they have done? And there's a lot of people who lost cargo on that boat. I don't know how they're going to recover that.

Dorothy Wickham says the maritime safety department and the police need to work more closely together to stop overloaded vessels from leaving port.