25 Apr 2012

PNG ferry owner claims Rabaul Queen was not overloaded

12:32 pm on 25 April 2012

The owner of the Rabaul Queen inter-island ferry remains adamant that the vessel was not overloaded when it sank in early February near the Papua New Guinea town of Finschhafen.

More than 200 people are believed to have drowned in the tragedy.

Don Wiseman has more:

"The Commission of Inquiry into the disaster is sitting in Kokopo this week and the first day was given over to testimony from Peter Sharp, who owns the Rabaul Shipping Company. He has told the inquiry he thought the ship was carrying 381 people plus children under the age of 3, though he admits to some doubt over this figure. Other reports have said the vessel was carrying many more people. Mr Sharp says he used a survey of sister ship, MV Solomon Queen, to allow the ferry to carry 350 passengers, even though the Rabaul Queen was surveyed to carry 295 plus crew of 15. He is adamant the higher number was not a concern and the ship was not overloaded. Mr Sharp says many of the people would have been forced to sit on the floor in cramped conditions for the voyages from Rabaul to Kimbe and Lae. He also told the inquiry that the ship was carrying 400 life jackets and life rafts."