16 Dec 2010

New Tonga ferry on first outer island voyage

6:45 pm on 16 December 2010

The Friendly Islands Shipping Agency in Tonga hopes to have a regular schedule for the new ferry, which is now on its first voyage to the outer islands.

The MV 'Otuanga'ofa arrived at Pangai in Ha'apai today before departing for Neiafu and returning to Nuku'alofa tomorrow.

The ferry was tied up for two months after arriving from Japan for upgrading and compliance work.

An Agency officer, Seini Fifita, says the ferry finally being able to set sail is good news.

She says commercial operations are expected to start next week.

"We'll start running now and we'll try to keep on a schedule. And then we'll continue on because this is Christmas and people want to continue on to see their families."

New docking facilities had to be installed on Ha'apai and Vava'u to be able to house the vessel, which can carry up to 400 passengers plus 22 crew members and 400 tonnes of cargo.