7 Dec 2009

Ashika replacement not expected before Christmas

2:35 pm on 7 December 2009

Hopes for an interim inter-island ferry to replace Tonga's sunken MV Princess Ashika before Christmas are fading.

Negotiations with prospective donors are still going on.

The Acting Secretary for Transport, Sione 'Akau'ola, said it had been the hope of the Tonga government and NZAID that an interim ferry would be in operation before Christmas.

The Matangi Tonga website says the sinking of Princess Ashika has left the Shipping Corporation of Polynesian Ltd without a vessel.

The Ashika was intended to replace the old MV Olovaha while a new ferry was being built in Japan.

However, the vessel being built in Japan will not be ready to begin operation for at least another year.

The current inter-island ferry service is left in the hands of private operators.