26 Mar 2010

Tonga gets interim ferry in April

11:09 am on 26 March 2010

The New Zealand government has announced an interim ferry service in Tonga will start operation next month after a vessel arrives from Malaysia.

The Ajan Subuh has been secured by New Zealand, Australia and Tonga as a temporary replacement following the sinking of the Princess Ashika last August.

A vessel being built in Japan and funded by the Japanese government is due in Tonga as a permanent replacement for the Ashika late this year.

The New Zealand foreign minister, Murray McCully says finding a temporary vessel that can safely operate in Tonga's challenging marine environment has been the priority.

He says the Ajang Subuh has undergone an independent survey by internationally recognised surveyors, London Off-shore Consultants, which found it seaworthy and fit for purpose.

Mr McCully says New Zealand and Australia will jointly fund the ferry charter for 12 months, each paying nearly 1.8 million US dollars.

Tonga will cover fuel and maintenance costs.