The deputy director of the Pacific Community's transport programme says regional ship operators are being put under a lot of pressure from the public resulting in overloaded boats.
Thierry Nervale's comments come as an investigation into a tragic ferry disaster continues in Kiribati.
More than 80 people are still missing and presumed dead since the MV Butiraoi sank on January 18.
The wooden catamaran was reportedly heavily overloaded with both cargo and passengers.
Mr Nervale said while it is the ship operators who must ensure their vessels are operating at capacity the travelling public also have a shared responsibility.
"We need to have all public aware that ships have some limitations and we need to respect the rules. And when the captain says that this vessel has reached its maximum number of passengers then it is the final word. We don't have this issue now in air transport. So we need to also achieve this in maritime transport," said Thierry Nervale.