15 Feb 2011

Shipping boss 'warned against buying Ashika'

10:06 pm on 15 February 2011

A maritime expert has been cross-examined in the manslaughter trial of four men charged over the sinking of a Tongan inter-island ferry.

The Princess Ashika sank on its fifth voyage in waters off Tonga, killing 74 people in August 2009.

Those facing charges are former New Zealand businessman John Jonesse who was chief executive of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, the ferry's captain Maka Tuputupu, first mate Semisi Pomale and a former ministry of transport director Viliami Tu'ipulotu.

The Shipping Corporation has also been charged.

Crown witness Vaku'ata Pola Vi again told the court on Tuesday his advice to Mr Jonesse before the ferry was purchased was that it was the wrong type of vessel, Radio New Zealand International reports.

Captain Vi insisted that he gave Mr Jonesse his honest opinion that the way the ferry was designed and built was not suitable for Tonga waters and was unseaworthy.

He said he told Mr Jonesse that the Princess Ashika was designed for calm waters, not for open sea in Tonga, and that if it operated there water would be coming into the ferry.

However, Captain Vi said despite his warnings, he felt Mr Jonesse was intending to buy the ferry anyway.