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Captain of Rabaul Queen’s ‘sister ship’ abandons trip

By Starza Paul AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, Feb. 6, 2012) – About 170 passengers have been rescued at Magarida, in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province, after bad weather forced a ferry to abandon its planned trip to Port Moresby following last week’s Rabaul Queen tragedy.

The ferry, Kimbe Queen, also reported to be a sister ship of the Rabaul Queen that sank off Finschhafen last Thursday morning, was en route to Port Moresby from Alotau carrying mostly students when the skipper forced the ship to take refuge at Walai Island off Kupiano.

Captain Tommy Joseph was reported to have slowed the speed of the ship and avoided a "certain disaster" that would have seen two major shipping tragedies happening within a few hours of each other.

The skipper then navigated the ship safely into the leeward side of the island.

Continuous bad weather has forced the ship to be stranded at Kupiano and the passengers are safe and well.

While most of the passengers have since travelled onwards to Port Moresby by road, about 27 still remain stranded with four crew on board awaiting company representatives to arrive from Port Moresby to refund their money so that they can pay for their PMV (minibus) fares to the capital city.

Search scaled back

Papua New Guinea authorities have now scaled back their search for survivors from the Rabaul Queen.

Some 246 people have been rescued and just six bodies have been recovered. Officials said none of the 100 people still believed missing were likely to be found alive.

The National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) moved from search to recovery mode on Sunday after scouring the waters for 56 hours without finding a survivor of Thursday’s sinking near the city of Lae.

"While rescue operations are likely to continue, weather permitting, for some more time, basically we are looking for bodies from now onwards," said NMSA rescue coordinator Nurur Rahman, Agence France-Presse reported.

The ferry went down about 10 minutes after being hit by what its operator described as a freak wave in the early hours between the popular New Britain dive spot Kimbe and Lae, carrying 351 passengers and 12 crew.

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