MV Niuvākai out of service, 'Otu Angaʻofa captain sacked after leaks found on ferries

The MV Niuvākai has been taken out of service and the captain of the MV ʻOtu Angaʻofa has been sacked after the two government ferries were found to be leaking.

The  ʻOtu Angaʻofa is being closely monitored and is carrying restricted loads.

Finance Minister Dr ‘Aisake Eke announced the news in Parliament, but did not give any further details.

The Minister of Infrastructure, ʻEtuate Lavulavu  said the Niuvākai would only be allowed to travel to Fiji, implying that this would be for maintenance purpose.

He said it was safe to travel on the ‘Otuanga’ofa.

Lord Tu’iha’ateiho told the House he understood that while they were discussing the issue, the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa was due to sail from Ha’apai to Nuku’alofa at 6pm that evening.

He said he was surprised when he heard the vessel had a leak but was allowed to travel.

The government was responding to concerns raised by Lord Tu’ilakepa about the safety of the inter-island sea transportation.

Hon. Tu’ilakepa reminded the House that Tonga had suffered severely in the past because of the way how government handled sea inter-ferry transports.

He said a memorial stone had been erected at Ma’ofanga to remember the 74 people who died after the government ferry Princess Ashika went aground in 2008.

He said government should make sure it did not have to face the kind of public outcry that occurred over the sinking of the Princess Ashika.

MV Niuvakai

The government’s Friendly Island Shipping Agency (FISA) bought the Niuvākai from the Ramanlal brothers last year for about TP$1.5 million.

The 36-year-old vessel, previously known as the  MV Theresa, has an in-built chill/freezer in addition to a cargo capacity of 660 cubic meters and 274.4 cubic meters (274,440 litres) for bulk cargo fuel (diesel fuel). It can also accommodate 10 livestock.

It can also be used to transport bulk cargo like agricultural produce on inter-island and outer island services.

MV ‘Otuanga’ofa

The ‘Otuanga’ofa was a new vessel when it was brought to Tonga from Japan on October, 2010 to replace the Princess Ashika.

In May 2014 the ferry was reported to have run aground while trying to leave the Pasivulangi harbour in Niuafo’ou.

Close inspection ferry found cracks in the vessel and it was dry docked in Fiji for maintenance.

It was reported at the time that the cracks were due to “localised stress.”

It said the bow and the stern were the most highly-stressed areas of the vessel; with the bow stress caused by ramming, pounding and racking; while the stern stress was caused by pounding, propeller pressure and vibrations.

The 53m x 13.5 m vessel has a total loading capacity of 520 tons. It can accommodate up to 400 passengers, and a cargo hold of 251 m2 area x 4.55 m headroom. The ferry has 2 main engines each of 1,000 horsepower to run at 11.5 knots.

The main points

  • The MV Niuvākai has been taken out of service and the captain of the MV ʻOtu Angaʻofa has been sacked after the two government ferries were found to be leaking.
  • The ʻOtu Angaʻofa is being closely monitored and is carrying restricted loads.
  • The Minister of Infrastructure said the Niuvākai would only be allowed to travel to Fiji, implying that it this would be for maintenance purpose.
  • He said it was safe to travel on the ‘Otuanga’ofa.

For more information

Ministry of Infrastructure

Friendly Islands Shipping Agency

Princess Ashika disaster (Tagata Pasifika)

Royal Commission report

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