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Inquiry given 2 passenger manifests totally 460 passengers

By Leslie Omaro

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 12, 2012) – The MV Rabaul Queen was packed with more than 460 passengers – according to passenger manifests Rabaul Shipping owner Peter Robert Sharp handed to the Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of the ship.

The commission, headed by Justice Warwick Andrew, started its hearing in Port Moresby yesterday.

Sharp, dressed in a blue shirt and denim jeans, was the third and final witness to appear before the commission yesterday.

Official figures said only 237 people were rescued after the ferry sank in heavy weather nine nautical miles off Finschhafen in Morobe province on Feb 2.

The first manifest Sharp presented was dated Jan 31, 2012, and showed that 322 passengers bound for Lae had boarded in Rabaul.

The second manifest for Feb 1 and Feb 2, 2012, showed 138 names of passengers who got on the ship in Kimbe for the journey to Lae.

[PIR editor’s note: George Turme, the first surviving passenger to appear before the commission, said today he jumped off the ship and swam to find a life raft. By his estimates, the ship was overcrowded, with at least 500 people aboard, and no safety instructions had been offered to passengers before the vessel left port. In addition, Turme testified the craft’s lifejackets were stored in a padlocked area, and not enough were available to save the passengers.]

Sharp also presented a list of names of Rabaul Queen crew members totaling 16 who were on board the ship when it sank as well as a cargo manifest.

Sharp testified that two of the missing crew were boys who went by the first names of Alex and John and were employed by the captain to operate the ship’s canteen.

He told the commission of enquiry that he did not check the manifest personally but relied on his staff to do the checking for him.

Sharp also agreed to produce contact details including names and addresses of his ticketing staff to the commission.

He produced copies of documents relating to the purchase of the MV Rabaul Queen in Japan in 1998.

Asked if he had any photographs of the MV Rabaul Queen which he could produce to the commission, Sharp said he did not have current photographs of the shipping vessel but had photographs of the ship when it was bought in Japan. He also gave copies of the ship’s plans to the commission.

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