FIJI FERRY SINKING DRAWS FINES, DISCIPLINE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 6) – The owner of the sunken MV Ovalau II was fined $2,000 while its captain, two officers, an underwater surveyor and three officials of the Fiji Islands Maritime Safety Administration (FIMSA) were disciplined yesterday.

A commission of inquiry headed by Justice Devendra Pathik recommended that FIMSA director, Captain Waisale Salu, be censured for his failure to ensure that proper forms and procedures were used by his officers.

Justice Pathik ordered that the Marine Board cancel Captain Jack Riley's license to captain a ship in Fiji waters.

He ruled that Mr Riley failed to see that cargo and vehicles were properly lashed in the ship's hold and failed to execute proper emergency procedures when the ship was in distress.

"The master failed to appreciate that the crew were fighting a losing battle and needed his prompt action to call for immediate help," he said.

Justice Pathik said Capt. Salu was overseeing an authority that used the wrong regulations to certify survey work.

"As head of this regulatory arm of the Government which ensures safer ships for the public, Captain Salu should have been more vigilant in his role in seeing that his officers adhere to the Marine Act," he said.

The commission suspended chief engineer Timoci Naivalu's Class 3 Certificate of Competency for a year. After the suspension, Mr Naivalu will only be allowed to serve as second engineer on any ship in the future.

Justice Pathik said Mr Naivalu did not ensure that water pumped out of the engine room was properly discharged overboard.

Instead, water collected in the vehicle hold of the vessel, causing it to sink.

Chief Officer Kelemete Rayawa had his Grade 3 Certificate of Competency suspended for one year after he was found to be inexperienced and lacking in basic seamanship skills.

"He is still young and has so many years of service ahead of him," Justice Pathik said.

"Suspension of his Certificate of Competency will teach him to be very careful and carry out his duties according to the Marine Act and professional training so that he does not go through the same experience again."

Justice Pathik also ordered the Marine Board to discipline the two marine surveyors from FIMSA who conducted the last survey on the vessel.

Deck surveyor Nimilote Bulimaibau and engineer surveyor Setareki Tuilovoni allowed the vessel to undergo a Full Afloat Survey instead of the Extension Survey.

"This act is lenient and more inclined to the ship owner both in terms of safety and revenue," Justice Pathik said.

"Instead of an extensive monthly surveys for six months, she only had one survey for six months.

"To make matters worse, there is no provision of an Annual Float survey in the Marine Act 1986, nor in the Fiji Marine Regulations 1990.

"It was simply a creation of FIMSA."

On the underwater surveyor David Evans, Justice Pathik accused him of unethical practices and ordered the Marine Board to suspend his license for a year.

He said Mr Evans found four breaches secured with four sandwich plates when he inspected the vessel on August 12, 2003, yet recommended an extension to the ship's survey certificate for another three months.

He found Patterson Brothers Shipping guilty of negligence by ignoring the telling signs of wear and tear at the ship's hull.

Justice Pathik said the company manager Trevor Patterson was qualified enough to stop the vessel from sailing despite the go-ahead given by FIMSA.

He said the sinking of the MV Ovalau II could have been avoided if everyone concerned with the vessel had been doing their job.

January 6, 2004

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com/

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