By EION BLACKWELL of AAP
PAPUA New Guinea police say once funding is released they will start a formal investigation into the sinking of the Rabaul Queen a year ago that claimed the lives of over 140 people.The overloaded MV Rabaul Queen sank on the morning of February 2 last year with as many as 411 people on board, after being smashed by huge waves about nine nautical miles (16 km) off Finschhafen, as it made the overnight trip from Kimbe to Lae.
"As of last year the Royal PNG Constabulary through its crimes directorate drew up a plan of action including a terms of reference for the investigation, and assembled an investigation team made up of senior police detectives selected from around the country," Mr Duban said in a statement.
"We are waiting for the 2013 financial year to open, which should be after February 7, and the police investigation will swing full speed into operation."
A commission of inquiry in June last year found there was no basis whatsoever to carry an excess of 295 passengers on board Rabaul Queen.
The commission, headed by Judge Warwick Andrew, was scathing of ship owner Captain Peter Sharp and made a series of recommendations for changing practices at PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA).
"The evidence before the commission shows that the shipping operation of Captain Sharp has been compromising the safety of crew and passengers for many years," the report said.
"Captain Sharp demonstrated to the commission that he had little or no respect for people, including those in authority.
"The safety of passengers was not of paramount concern to Captain Sharp. He made it clear in evidence that he put profit ahead of safety."
The report called on the NMSA to take immediate steps to revoke the appointment of Mr Sharp as a recognised surveyor of ships.
Of the report's 25 recommendations, 14 were aimed at improving the capability of the NMSA.
AAP has been unable to contact the authority to determine if any of the recommendations - which include six-monthly safety checks on PNG passenger ships - have been implemented.