10 Feb 2012

Sunken PNG ferry's owners used litigation to ward off maritime authority

8:14 am on 10 February 2012

The operations manager of Papua New Guinea's National Maritime Safety Authority says the owners of the ferry that sank last week have a history of using litigation to get out of following the rules.

246 people were rescued after the MV Rabaul Queen sank in rough seas last Thursday near the end of a 20-hour journey from Kimbe to PNG's second largest city, Lae.

There's debate over the number of people missing but the authority's Captain Nurur Rahman says on Rabaul Shipping's own admission the vessel was grossly overloaded.

He says the company has other maritime casualties on its record and over the past decade has kept the authority at bay by flooding it with legal paperwork.

"This sort of company is more or less authoritarian in the managing director directing everything. Whenever we tend to speak with them or write to them it's always a legal notice of things to do with the courts so it has really rattled us as well."

Captain Nurur Rahman says an investigation team will be travelling to Rabaul during the next few days to talk to the shipping company.