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Rabaul Queen’s sister ship evacuated after grounding

By Alexander Nara

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Feb. 24, 2012) - The MV Kimbe Queen, the sister ship of the ill-fated MV Rabaul Queen ran aground on a coral reef off the coast of Bialla in West New Britain Province early yesterday morning with 34 passengers onboard.

The ship sailed out of Lae late on Sunday without the knowledge of the National Maritime Safety Authority and the National Disaster authorities. The boat and its owners has been pressure to suspend its operations until investigations into the MV Rabaul Queen disaster, where more than 200 passengers are still unaccounted for, have been completed.

Bialla Police Station Commander Inspector Thomas Reu who was on board the ship at around three o’clock yesterday confirmed that the ship sailed into Bialla at around 11 o’clock on Tuesday night but did not berth until early yesterday morning.

A total of 23 passengers of the 31 travelling from Lae disembarked at Bialla wharf with only eight people travelling onto Rabaul from Lae.

Senior Inspector Reu said 26 passengers boarded the ship at Bialla to join the eight from Rabaul and left Bialla wharf at around 7:20 a.m. Soon after, it ran aground at Pilagolo Reef just outside Bialla.

The Hargy Oil Palm Limited sprang to immediate action by sending boats to the ship in distress to transport all passengers including parents and kids with their cargo back to the shore.

Reu said the people of the little quiet town of Bialla went into a rampage at the wharf threatening to attack the captain and the crew as well as trying to cause damage to the ship but police stopped them.

Reu confirmed that the managing director of the shipping company that owned MV Kimbe Queen flew into the Bialla township by helicopter at around 1pm and was escorted under heavy police presence to board the ship.

He said Peter Sharp who managed to get the ship off the reef late in the afternoon on the same day after a long day of continuous effort was seen trying to convince the NMSA to allow him to take the boat back to Rabaul on the same day.

Disaster Officers in Kimbe, who left for Bialla early this morning to assess the situation, expressed extreme frustrations at the management of the shipping company, which they claimed was making a mockery out of the survivors, missing people and relatives of those who perished in the MV Rabaul Queen tragedy.

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