7 Dec 2010

Tonga ferry testing in hope of Christmas service

3:30 pm on 7 December 2010

The Friendly Islands Shipping Agency in Tonga still hopes to get the new ferry, the MV 'Otuanga'ofa, operating before Christmas after an initial test run scheduled for Thursday.

The Agency is the body created under the Ministry of Finance and National Planning tasked with operating the Japanese-built ferry which had arrived in Nuku'alofa in October.

Its general manager, Captain Vaka'utapola Vi, says they've been inundated with enquiries as to when the ferry will start operating.

He has asked the public for patience.

"Hoping to do the test run on Thursday to Pangai, then from Pangai to Neiafu Vava'u and then back. Then and hopefully, by next Wednesday, the ship starts up a commercial run."

Captain Vaka'utapola Vi says the delay is due to a number of minor changes to the vessel for it to comply with Tongan maritime law, rather than Japanese law.

The new ferry cost nearly 20 million US dollars and was paid for by the Japanese government under its aid programme.