Monday, January 18, 2010

RoRo And Ferry Update As Storms Cause Havoc And Macabre Inquiry Continues

Indonesia and New Zealand services cease whilst Tonga and Uganda seek Replacement Ships
Shipping News Feature

INDONESIA – NEW ZEALAND – TONGA- UGANDA – Freight traffic slewed to a halt in Indonesia as weekend services were suspended due to the extreme weather. Padangbai Port in Eastern Bali saw over two kilometres of trucks queuing for days awaiting a transit to Lembar Port after state owned ferry company PT Indonesia suspended almost all sailings. The route, which carries 21 scheduled sailings per hour, was reduced to a dozen or so since Thursday night, picking calmer periods during the gales to allow at least some passages. The worry for logistics companies is that many of the trucks carry perishable goods and some have now been stuck for three days. Hundreds of fishing boats are also being forced to remain in port until the weather abates.

New Zealand inter island ferry services in the Cook Strait were suspended during severe gales over the weekend. Swells of up to 8 metres in 115 kilometres per hour winds left over a thousand stranded until the storms had abated sufficiently to resume the Kiwi Rail and Bluebridge services.

Uganda sees the Government seeking a replacement for the vessel which plies the route across Lake Victoria connecting the Ssese Island chain to Masaka. The plan is to service the vessel currently on the route, considered too small and to old, and relocate it to another area requiring a ferry. Meanwhile in Tonga an Royal Commission enquiry continues into the tragic loss of the MV Princess Ashika last August with the consequent deaths of 74 people. In scenes reminiscent of the Herald of Free Enterprise enquiry the Commissioners were told this morning of water running into the cargo decks “on every voyage”. In a startling statement, a former ships officer told the enquiry how refrigerators would “wash about” whilst the vessel was under way, but other than standing them on pallets no preventative action was taken to protect the vessel.

Accusations have already been made that bosses of the Shipping Corporation of Polynesia had ignored all advice that the vessel was unsuitable as an open ocean carrier and should only sail in calmer inshore waters. The Fiji Marine Board had apparently reduced the maximum number allowed to sail aboard the vessel from the original Japanese level of 417 to just 160. A new ferry is currently being built in Japan scheduled for delivery in October, until then Tongan officials are still searching for a suitable replacement.

Ferry tragedies are all too commonplace across the South Pacific island states as we have reported earlier here.