16 Jul 2010

Concerns that Kiribati ferry disaster could happen again

2:06 pm on 16 July 2010

New Zealand's High Commissioner to Kiribati says hundreds of people are travelling in boats with problems similar to those that caused a ferry to capsize last year.

35 people died and 16 survived when the single outrigger passenger ferry Uean Te Raoi II capsized off Maiana Island in Kiribati last July.

A report by New Zealand's Transport Accident Investigation Commission has that the boat was overloaded, and that its layout and dimensions had been changed so it was not safe beyond sheltered waters.

High Commissioner, Robert Kaiwai, says the ferry was standard for Kiribati, and hundreds of people use similar vessels every week.

"The stability of the vessel itself, it's been structurally changed considerably from the original plans that were laid down for the vessel, so the distance of the outrigger from the main hull of the boat, the issues around capacity, how many people you can take on board and what sort of cargo. My concern has always been that this could potentially happen again."

Robert Kaiwai says it will be a massive undertaking for the Kiribati government to address the issue.