Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Container Freight Vessel's Crew Honoured For Ferry Rescue

183 Souls Still Missing After Sinking
Shipping News Feature

PAPUA NEW GUINEA – The search continues for bodies twelve days after the sinking of the Rabaul Queen which foundered in the region off the mainland. Reports say the ferry, which was heading for Lae, Papua New Guinea from Kimbe on New Britain Island was only about ten miles from its destination when she transmitted an SOS to Australian authorities which was answered by the Mitsui OSK Lines container vessel MOL Summer. The freight vessel was subsequently visited by Australian Senior Search and Rescue Officer Mr John Rice and three colleagues to thank Captain Gargov and his crew personally for their actions.

While at port in Brisbane, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) officers boarded the ship to present the Master and crew with a certificate of recognition for their on scene coordination and the rescue of survivors. AMSA's General Manager Emergency Response Division addressed the Master, officers and crew, noting the magnitude of their achievement, the expertise and energy they had brought on scene, and that AMSA had already briefed the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on the achievement that international shipping had made in the search and rescue operation.

The Japanese vessel, which had been under way from Hong Kong to Brisbane, coordinated the rescue as the seven other merchant ships raced to the scene. The MOL vessel managed to rescue 116 survivors and a total of 243 people were plucked from the ocean alive by the first five vessels which arrived. The latest total given by local authorities mean that 183 souls perished in the tragedy, including children as young as three months, but a final total is yet to be confirmed. Many students were reported as being aboard the stricken ferry when she foundered.

Local blogs are alive with critical reports of the shipowners, Rabaul Shipping, accusing the company of overloading, with three hundred allegedly being the maximum allowable passenger complement, and also of repeatedly ignoring safety considerations as outlined by the authorities. The Government has now said it will be instituting legislation to make the country’s seas and roads safer with Transport Minister Francis Awesa saying in Parliament today he intends to break the monopoly of four ferry operators in the region and to impose a ban on vessels and vehicles over five years old entering service in the island region adding that he believes all citizens are aware that the country is used as a ‘dumping ground’ for older unwanted stock.

Meanwhile there is no news of three of Rabaul Shipping’s other ships which were being detained whilst the cause of the accident was determined. A full investigation is to be carried out under the auspices of AMSA which received and acted on the original distress call.

Photo: Courtesy AMSA. Captain Gargov with Mrs Gargov and the crew of the MOL Summer receives the award from AMSA Senior Search & Rescue officer, Mr John Rice