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Investigator states Ashika has negative value, unseaworthy

NUKU΄ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Jan. 14, 2010) – In Tonga, the Director of New Zealand Marine Brokers told the Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of the Princess Ashika the vessel had no real value due to its old age and advanced state of corrosion.

James Lewis who has an extensive experience in carrying out valuations for companies in New Zealand, Australia and the Pacific was sought after to prepare a valuation of Ashika on December 9, 2009.

On January 13 he gave evidence at the inquiry after viewing photographs and other evidence in relation to the vessel, confirmed it was of no value or a negative value due to its age, poor maintenance and extensive corrosion. He also indicated that for the Ashika to have any real value it would have needed many hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on the vessel.

As part of the analysis of the valuation, Lewis looked at the photographs and the other evidence of the vessel and formed the view that it was effectively unsailable as a commercial vessel and added it was a negative value as far as the owners were concerned.

He added that after seeing two Provisional Certificates of Survey issued by the Ministry of Transport, dated July 2 and 3 of 2009, in his experience he had never seen such certificates and wondered what they were.

He agreed with the counsel that a vessel was either seaworthy or unseaworthy, and in his opinion the Ashika was unseaworthy.

"Looking at the deficiencies list, looking at the photographs, I cannot see how any maritime authority could issue any survey certificate, provisional or otherwise. The vessel would be detained at the wharf pending repairs."

The counsel put to him so in short, "I take it from that, that you’re of the opinion that it was unseaworthy?"

Lewis replied "yes".

The witness was provided with a copy of the contract to purchase this vessel for FJ$600,000 [US$315,000]. He said in his professional opinion on the pre-accident-going-concern market value of Ashika, it didn’t have any real value at all.

He also said the Ashika was not on the market for sale in the normal way, as it was never publicized as an item to be sold. And in 2008 he had contacts with the Patterson family in finding a for Ashika, but not for it to be sold.

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