30 Jan 2004

Inquiry into ferry sinking shows flaws in Fiji seaworthiness regulations

4:53 pm on 30 January 2004

Fiji's Maritime Safety Administration has admitted using illegal seaworthiness certificates to inter-island vessels, because there are no proper laws.

The Fiji Times reports that the director of the administration, Captain Waisale Salu, made the admission during an inquiry into the sinking of the inter-island ferry, the OVALAU, last August.

Captain Salu told Justice Devendra Pathik that regulations to govern the seaworthiness of vessels were not formed until 1986.

Even then there were no procedures to legalise the issuing of survey certificates to vessels because the legislation was limited to boats of 10 metres in length or less.

Captain Salu said they used this regulation to allow vessels like the OVALAU to sail in Fiji waters.

He said a review of Fiji's maritime laws was long overdue but the government did not appear supportive of a review which had already begun.

The OVALAU had been issued with an interim certificate when it sank. All passengers were rescued.