18 Feb 2011

Former engineer testifies at Tonga's Ashika trial

4:09 pm on 18 February 2011

A former marine engineer, Mosese Fakatou, who inspected Tonga's inter-island ferry just hours before it sank, has been giving evidence at the trial of four men facing charges over the tragedy.

The Princess Ashika sank on August the 5th in 2009, claiming 74 lives.

Mr Fakatou told the court he was asked by Bridge Marine Insurance to survey the vessel in early August.

Falemaka Fihaki reports:

"The main areas Mosese Fakatou inspected were the cargo hold and the passenger area of the vessel. Mr Fakatou, using photographs, pointed out to the court rust corrosion and holes in numerous parts of the vessel. Some holes had been patched using concrete in what Mr Fakatou says should have been temporary measures. The ramps on the stern and bow had holes and gaps that could take in water while sailing. A photograph was shown of the hatch of the ship's void space which is responsible for keeping the vessel afloat. Mr Fakatou said if the void space took in water it could result in the sinking of the ship. The hatch had no hinges to fasten it and keep it shut which means water could enter. He also emphasised the fact that the vessel was not built for the open sea with the absence of non return valves to let out sea and rain water while keeping water from coming back in the vessel."