Papua New Guinea ferry sinks, 350 on board

2012-02-02 06:55

Kimbe - A ferry is believed to have sunk in bad weather off Papua New Guinea with as many as 350 people on board, its operator said Wednesday, adding that some survivors has been found.

Star Ships said it lost contact with the MV Rabaul Queen at about 06:00 on Thursday (20:00 GMT on Wednesday) while travelling between Kimbe and Lae in the east of the Pacific nation.

"Bad weather, I think (it is) believed to have sunk," Star Ships spokesperson John Whitney told AFP, adding that there were up to 350 on board.

"(There are) survivors. At the moment rescuers from Australia are at the site. No fatalities have been reported yet."

Australia's foreign office said it "has responded to a request for assistance by arranging for aircraft to overfly the area, and will respond to other requests".

"The shipping company advises that they do not believe that there were any foreigners on board, but our High Commission (embassy) is seeking to confirm this, including whether any dual nationals may have been affected," a foreign office spokesperson said.

"The government of Papua New Guinea is managing the response to this incident. Local rescue efforts are currently under way."

PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) said the ship had capsized but it was awaiting more details from officials at the site.

"We don't have any accurate information as yet, a search and rescue team went out early this morning but they haven't got back to us yet," a spokeswoman said.

Martin Mosi, head of the National Disaster Centre, said two helicopters and a ship had been dispatched to search the area in addition to the two search and rescue vessels sent out by the NMSA. He was awaiting word on casualties.

Mosi said it was "very difficult to say" what the cause may have been.

"Is it weather, is it overloading or is it something to do with the vessel itself? We do not know but that will certainly come to light very soon," he added.

Star Ships, among PNG's largest passenger ship operators, runs regular services to the nation's outlying islands including to New Britain's Kimbe, a popular dive site that attracts tourists from across the world.

  • Janice - 2012-02-02 07:04

    Jeeeez, two in so many weeks??????????????Hope there are no fatalities!

  • louis.langenhoven - 2012-02-02 07:44

    Terrible business...hoping for the best since current info doesn't tell much.

  • mike.clery - 2012-02-02 08:22

    Take a ferry or pleasure boat in the third world at your peril. Make sure you position yourself for easy escape (regardless of how uncomfortable that position is) and that there's a lifejacket nearby. I've experienced some where lifejackets were all packed inside at the bow, and where it would have been almost impossible to escape from inside if the boat capsized.

      Michael - 2012-02-02 09:03

      Yes Mike, it's a product of third world country just like Costa Concordia, built in Italy and owned by British-American Carnival Corporation!

      mike.clery - 2012-02-02 09:16

      My comment was meant as advice for adventure travelers, particularly in some countries in SE Asia. If you believe there are no problems with low safety standards and poor oversight, go ahead and use the cheapest rust-bucket available.

  • Dmitri - 2012-02-02 09:16

    No matter where in the world you take a ferry, there is always a chance of something happening. Be it in Papau New Guinea, On the river Rhine, along the canals of Amsterdam or even New York. There are nautical rules and regs to follow. The issue (and this applies to many companies etc) is that everyone is trying to cut costs, so short cuts will be made. This is sad but unfortunately true. The companies say that safety is their main priority (which it should be). Unfortunately, because of the size of the industry (nautical in this instance), it is almost impossible to audit the safety of companies. Only when things go wrong, is there an audit (and a cover up) My thoughts are with those involved.

  • Tatum - 2012-02-02 09:18

    With all these tragedies lately, I think I will just be staying at home thank you very much. Mother Nature seems to be in a foul mood these days. Hope everyone survived this misfortune.

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