12 Apr 2012

PNG ferry was overloaded, survivor tells inquiry

5:23 pm on 12 April 2012

A survivor of a ferry disaster that killed up to 220 people in Papua New Guinea has told an inquiry the ship was overloaded and life jackets had been locked away.

The MV Rabaul Queen sank between the island of New Britain and the mainland city of Lae on 2 February this year.

George Turme told a Commission of Inquiry in Port Moresby on Thursday there were an estimated 500 people on the when it sank in rough seas, Radio New Zealand International reports.

Mr Turme says strong winds and large waves caused the vessel to capsize and he made it to safety by swimming five minutes to a life raft.

He told the commission that life jackets on the ship were locked up and no emergency evacuation procedures had been given to travellers.

Meanwhile, the owner of Rabaul Shipping, which operated the ferry, is also giving evidence on the disaster on Thursday.

Peter Sharp began his testimony to the commission on Wednesday.