PNG Inquiry Reveals Rabaul Queen Crew Unqualified For Duty

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Operational and safety certifications allegedly bypassed

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, April 30, 2012) – In Papua New Guinea, four out of five senior officers controlling operations on the MV Rabaul Queen lacked qualifications and competency, putting passengers, the ship and the crew at risk, a Commission of Inquiry was told in Kokopo, East New Britain, last Friday.

The inquiry was told that Rabaul Shipping, which operated the MV Rabaul Queen that sank off the coast of Morobe province on Feb 2 and claimed more than 100 lives, had bypassed requirements on its safe manning certificate and recruited crew without the required qualifications to man it.

Chief Mate Michael Zirau was not qualified to be chief mate when the vessel sank. He was a Coxswain Class 2 which was far lower than Mate Class 4.

Silas Aila was not qualified to be the second mate, which required a certificate of Mate Class 5.

Chief engineer Arua Bari, who did not survive, was not qualified to be chief engineer when the vessel sailed in January and February.

According to the safe manning certificate, it required him to have minimum qualification of Chief Engineer Class 2, but had only qualifications of an Engineer Class 3.

Donald Kaian, second engineer on the vessel was qualified as Engineer Grade 5 which was far lower than the qualifications of Engineer Class 2.

The position goes from Engineer Class 5 to Engineer Class 1, with Engineer Class 1 being the highest.

Kaian was a long way from being qualified for his post when the vessel sank.

[PIR editor’s note: Captain Tsiau also admitted he was not aware of the increasingly dangerous wind conditions present on the day the ship sank. The only weather reports heeded were provided by owner Peter Sharp. In addition, stability calculations as to how many passengers could safely be transported on the vessel had not been reviewed since 1999. Tsiau also said no announcements of weather changes were made to passengers.]

It was revealed that the captain, Anthony Tsiau, was the only qualified officer on the vessel with a Master Class 4, one step above the lowest ranking.

Varitimos: So I suggest that by reason of the lack of qualifications of the crew, the safety of the passengers, the ship and the crew were put at danger. Do you agree with me?

Tsiau: According to the certificate – the safe manning certificate, yes.

Varitimos: Did (Rabaul Shipping owner Peter) Sharp understand that crew on board the vessel were not qualified? Did he understand that?

Tsiau: Yes.

Tsiau said he had raised it up with Sharp who told him to advertise the positions.

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