31 May 2012

Rabaul Queen owner requested rule relaxation says former PNG minister

1:49 pm on 31 May 2012

A former Papua New Guinea minister of transport, Don Polye, says the owner of a passenger ferry whose sinking off the Morobe coast is thought to have killed more than 200 people asked for shipping laws to be relaxed.

Hearings before a Commission of Inquiry into the February sinking of the Rabaul Queen conclude next week following eight weeks of testimony including accusations of overcrowding and incompetence.

The shipping company's owner, Peter Sharp, has told the commission he bears no responsibility for the disaster and that it was an act of God.

Mr Polye says during his time as transport minister Mr Sharp asked him not to establish the National Maritime Safety Authority.

"And the second thing he was saying was that the policies and the regulations and some laws applied by the department of transport were too stringent for local Papua New Guinean shipping operators to comply to in providing a service in the maritime provinces and other parts of the country."

Don Polye says he never listened to anyone asking for laws to be relaxed because in the interests of safety, everyone must comply with them.