Friday, February 24, 2012

Kimbe Queen ordered off PNG waters

THE passenger ferry mv Kimbe Queen has been ordered into dry dock for inspection by National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) officers after it ran aground on Wednesday.
The inter-island vessel will be allowed to resume operation once the inspectors say it is safe to do, NMSA chief executive officer Chris Rupen said.
“A stop order has been put on the vessel not to operate until inspections are completed and NMSA is satisfied that the vessel is safe to resume operations,” Rupen said.
The vessel ran aground on a reef in Bialla waters off West New Britain on Wednesday morning while sailing from Rabaul to Lae. It had 34 passengers on board.
It was refloated during that same day and then sent to Rabaul with just the crew on board for the NMSA inspection.
Rabaul Shipping legal officer Jaclyn Maribu confirmed in a telephone interview that shipowner Peter Sharp was disappointed with the latest incident. Sharp had flown to the scene in a helicopter on Wednesday.
The vessel’s grounding came just 20 days after sister ferry mv Rabaul Queen sank in bad weather off the coast of Finschhafen, Morobe, with the loss of about 200 lives. More than 180 passengers are still missing.
It led to three of the company vessels being held at Buka wharf, Bougainville, by relatives of the survivors and victims of the mv Rabaul Queen disaster days later.
The three vessels are the Solomon Queen, Kopra and Kopra Four.
Maribu said the vessels were still at Buka and the locals wanted K350,000 before they could release them.
With the company’s fleet reduced in number by five, it raises questions over its ability to provide a vital service that thousands of Papua New Guineans depend on daily.
Rupen said the mv Kimbe Queen would be out of commission until his officers completed their inspection.
He said the vessel was allowed to proceed to Rabaul after an initial inspection and confirmed that it did not sustain any serious damage from its grounding, and was not taking in water.
“NMSA allowed Kimbe Queen to sail to Rabaul on the condition she did not carry any passengers which the owners complied with,” he said.
Security concerns also prompted the decision.
“There were concerns by police in Bialla and Kimbe, as well as the owners, that there was not enough police personnel on the ground to provide safety and security for the vessel (in either location for the inspection) as tension and emotions are still running high after the Rabaul Queen tragedy.”
NMSA inspectors are expected to take two weeks to complete their inspection at the company’s docks.
They will submit their report to the authority headquarters in Port Moresby.
Rupen clarified that there was no pressure from the NMSA on the vessel to suspend operations in the wake of the mv Rabaul Queen sinking.
“NMSA can only stop a vessel if it deems the vessel unsafe for operation,” Rupen said.
Meanwhile a memorial service for the victims of the mv Rabaul Queen will be held at St Mary’s Catholic church in Eriku on Sunday in Lae.
There will also be a boat trip to the site of the ferry sinking the same day

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