12 Nov 2009

Tongan authorities 'ignored' ferry's unseaworthy ruling

4:42 pm on 12 November 2009

A senior marine surveyor in Tonga has told the inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika he deemed the ferry unfit to sail and called on authorities to stop it.

The ageing vessel sank in August, killing 75 men, women and children.

Onesi Tu'ifua worked for the Marines and Ports Division and was with a team that conducted an extensive survey on 2 July, a day after the ferry arrived from Fiji.

He told the Royal Commission into the sinking that the team was particularly concerned for the need for the bow and stern ramps to be made watertight.

Mr Tu'ifua says he called on the acting director of the Marine Division, Viliami Tu-ipulotu, on more than 10 occasions throughout July to stop the boat sailing until the work was done.

He says when he heard that the vessel had sailed in August he confronted the marine director and the then CEO of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, John Jonesse, asking them to recall the vessel but they would not.