31 Jan 2018

Sunken ferry had seaworthy certification, says Kiribati govt

3:01 pm on 31 January 2018

A spokesperson from the office of the president of Kiribati says the ferry MV Butiraoi, which sank a fortnight ago, was seaworthy contrary to local media reports.

The NZ Defence Force found seven survivors from a ferry with 50 people on board that was reported missing in Kiribati a week ago.

The NZ Defence Force found seven survivors from the ferry. Photo: NZ Defence Force

Authorities in Kiribati confirmed that around 80 passengers and about five crew members were on board the ferry when it sank.

While only seven survivors have, so far, been found.

Tearinibeia Enoo Teabo said the president was misquoted in reports on Radio Kiribati regarding the condition of the ferry.

He said the vessel had a seaworthy certification, but was ordered by Kiribati maritime authorities not to carry any passengers after sustaining serious damages to its navigational system, rudders and hull.

Mr Teabo said the president will be making a national address this afternoon on Radio Kiribati regarding the incident.

The Kiribati government is being heavily criticised by the public for failing to report the MV Butiraoi missing until a week after it was scheduled to arrive in the capital Tarawa from the island of Nonouti.

A local MP from the island said his people were devastated and wanted answers.

Rescue efforts continuing

While the seven survivors were rescued on 28 January the search continues for a life raft those rescued said was launched from the sinking ferry.

For the last four days a New Zealand P3 Orion has been searching an area of ocean larger than 300,000 square kilometres.

Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) Watch Leader, Neville Blakemore, said the crew of the RNZAF P-3 Orion were resting today and doing any necessary work on the aircraft.

Some of the seven survivors shortly after being rescued.

Some of the seven survivors shortly after being rescued Photo: Facebook/ @RadioKiribati

Further aircraft, from the RAAF, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority and the United States Coast Guard are supporting local authorities involved in the search.

The Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Nadi, Fiji said, so far, only some debris from the ferry had been spotted.

Search and rescue authorities in Kiribati said they would not stop searching until they found the last life raft from the missing ferry.

Many of those on board the ferry were believed to have been students returning to the capital for the start of the school year.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs