16 Feb 2011

Tonga trial told of Ashika's inadequacy

4:06 pm on 16 February 2011

A marine official has told the Tonga Supreme Court of the deficiencies and rust he found in the Princess Ashika when he inspected the inter-island vessel two days after it arrived in Nuku'alofa from Fiji.

Four men and the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia are accused of manslaughter after 74 people died when the vessel sank in August 2009.

The Crown's second witness, Onesi Tuifua, an official with the Marine Division of the Ministry of Transport, took the stand today and our correspondent, Falemaka Fihaki, reports he detailed serious faults in the Ashika.

"He said that in the process of the inspection he found serious problems with rusting in the vessel. Onesi spoke of the vital navigational equipment not available in the Ashika, as well as conditions unsafe for both crew and passengers. Among them was a sextant needed to identify the position of the sun when the satellite was down, also the absence of nets around the gangway to prevent passengers falling into the wharf, as well as alarm bells in times of danger or emergency and fire detection equipment. Onesi says the load lines used to identify whether the ship was overloaded had already submerged in the water, meaning the Ashika appeared overloaded even before any passengers or cargo had been loaded on the vessel."

Falemaka Fihaki reporting