SHIP LOSES NINE VEHICLES OVERBOARD BETWEEN NIUE AND RAROTONGA

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By Alex Sword

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (August 18, 1999 – Cook Islands News)---Nine motor vehicles housed in containers are probably still floating somewhere in the ocean between Niue and Rarotonga.

That is, after a freak wave reportedly struck the MV Hirma, causing it to lose cargo about 12 sailing hours out of Rarotonga earlier this week.

According to Express Cook Islands Line (XCIL) Agency, Ltd. Managing Director Brett Porter, the freak wave struck the ship broadside, causing containers off the forward bay to break loose, with nine containers tumbling into the sea, and a tenth being damaged along with its contents.

Port yesterday said all the containers contained motor vehicles.

CHECKING OFF

Motor vehicle importer Pickering Motors spent most of yesterday checking off their large shipment of containerized merchandise to work out exactly which vehicles were lost.

Pickering Motor's proprietor Woonton Pickering told Cook Islands News that they had to check the cargo first before informing customers about exactly what the situation is.

While they will certainly do that today, customers were yesterday already making their own way down to the wharf to find out.

XCIL's Brett Porter said all parties involved in the shipment have insurance coverage.

CINews understands that local damage assessors had a look at the ship when it berthed at Avatiu wharf.

Costs, while unknown at this stage, may, according to the average value of the vehicles, be around a quarter of a million dollars.

MARITIME WARNINGS

While the various companies sort through their insurance covers and customer details, Avatiu Harbor Master Captain Don Silk has been issuing warnings to yachties and other boat operators to either steer clear of the area where the containers were lost, or keep a very sharp watch out for them should they have to voyage there.

The containers, acting like floating reefs, could cause major damage to yachts.

Capt. Silk said it would be some time before the containers fill with enough water to make them sink.

Although there was no talk yesterday of a salvage operation, one thing is clear, cars in containers are certainly floating somewhere out there.

For additional reports from the Cook Islands News Online, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Cook Islands New Online.

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