The Maritime Safety Administration and the police in Solomon Islands are launching an inquiry into last week's ferry sinking.
The administration's acting director says the mv Francis Gerena - which was on its way to north Malaita from the capital Honiara - was licenced to carry 75 passengers.
Tim Harris says it appears to have had almost 400 on board, as well as cargo, and the inquiry will determine those responsible for its illegal departure.
It was almost impossible to get on the vessel - I mean it was so grossly overloaded that our officers couldn't even board the vessel properly. They had to climb up outside the vessel to try and get to the bridge. So they took somebody who they thought was one of the crew and they told him to pass the message that the vessel must not sail and that the vessel must go to the police wharf.
Tim Harris says the captain was seen disembarking before the ship left port.