Bad Weather and Bad Decisions Responsible for Papua New Guinea Ferry Accident
On Feb. 2, a Papua New Guinea ferry sank in the Vitiaz Strait. Initial reports said the M/V RABAUL QUEEN had about 350 people aboard; however, recent reports indicate the vessel may have carried as many as 400 or 500, far exceeding its passenger capacity of 295. The death toll has been estimated at anywhere from 140 to 200 plus, but nobody knows for sure.
During inquiry hearings into this tragic ferry accident, Captain Peter Sharp insisted it resulted from an “act of God,” describing how the vessel was struck by three “rogue waves.” When the M/V RABAUL QUEEN set sail, the PNG Weather Service was warning of gale-force conditions. Captain Sharp admitted that in his 41 years operating in Papua New Guinea, he never sought information from the PNG Weather Service, instead piecing together weather reports from Australia and America. He conceded the M/V RABAUL QUEEN should never have sailed in the conditions it did.
Not only did the ferry sail into bad weather, it did so overcrowded and with life jackets reportedly locked up in cages. Captain Sharp has come under fire for allegedly bullying regulators, prioritizing financial gains over safety, and routinely creating inhumane conditions on the vessels in his fleet.
This tragedy stresses the importance of passenger ship safety. Overcrowded or improperly loaded vessels are more likely to capsize, and passengers have a higher risk of drowning when they cannot easily access lifesaving equipment. Furthermore, if a ship’s captain fails to consult local weather reports, the ship may sail into dangerous conditions it is not equipped to handle.
When negligence is to blame for a ferry accident, victims may be entitled to compensation from the owner and/or operator. Have you been injured in a maritime accident or lost a loved one at sea? Contact a Boston maritime attorney today to learn whether you may have a case.
Latti & Anderson LLP – Boston maritime trial lawyers