3 Nov 2009

Tonga shipping boss says Ashika was seaworthy

1:53 pm on 3 November 2009

The managing director of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia has told the Tongan Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika that he believed the vessel was seaworthy.

74 people died when the ferry sank in August.

John Jonesse told the Inquiry that he had visited Fiji on a number of occasions to seek a replacement inter island ferry and checked out the Ashika.

Don Wiseman has more:

"Mr Jonesse said it was in good mechanical condition and well maintained and accepted that his input was pivotal in the Government purchasing the vessel. He went on to say he had seen maintenance records that showed it had been regularly maintained and had had a life of preventative management. But Mr Jonesse, who has admitted having no experience in shipping prior to becoming the company's CEO in 2007, said he was considering the vessel's mechanical status and it was up to other experts to assess the rest of the ship. He admitted that he was the only person who had looked the ship over in Fiji, but told the inquiry his statements that it was in good condition were not misleading, but were inadequate. Mr Jonesse qualified that statement saying he meant inadequate in that additional survey work was not carried out. Earlier the Inquiry had been shown dozens of photographs showing extensive corrosion. Mr Jonesse accepted there was corrosion on the side of the hull, but said this did not mean there was rust below the waterline."