2010 Feb 24

Tongan ferry captain arrested - report


 The captain of the Tongan ferry Princess Ashika has been arrested and charged with five counts of knowingly sailing an unseaworthy vessel, according to a TV report.

The 37-year-old ferry sank in August with the loss of 74 lives.

The TV3 report says Maka Tuputupu has appeared in court and his wife has been trying to arrange bail.

Meanwhile, Tongan Prime Minister Feleti Sevele has admitted that no reports on the condition of the rusting ferry were tabled to Cabinet before it was bought last year.

Dr Sevele has told an inquiry that no specific issues were raised about the ferry in Cabinet either, and he had relied on people to complete due diligence.

Emails put before the inquiry show that Cabinet approved the purchase of the ship subject to a report of seaworthiness.

But that was not done and the inquiry was told a survey of the ship would have cost $90,000.

Dr Sevele told the inquiry the first he knew that it was unseaworthy was when he was told it had sunk.



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