By PILA WASU
A SHIP sunk after crashing in to a reef on Saturday evening in Kimbe Bay but all its 400 passengers were rescued in an eight-hour evacuation using a tug boat.
No casualties were reported after the captain lost control of the 78m Solomon Queen which ran into the reef about 800m from Kimbe wharf at low tide.
The passenger vessel was heading for Lae after picking up passengers in Rabaul and Kimbe when difficulty in reading the radar caused the ship to run aground.
The rescue and evacuation was conducted jointly by police and a security company.
A shocked captain told The National that due to heavy rain, fog and darkness he could not see clearly and blamed for directing the ship into the reef.
Most of the crew and the first officer locked themselves in the cabin for fear of their safety.
An angry passenger Kerene Anton told The National that the Solomon Queen crew was lucky to have locked themselves up and the timely arrival of the police.“We would have beaten them up for the near tragedy,” he said.
“You are dealing with hundreds of human lives and someone, the captain or engineer, must come out and tell us what actually happened.”
As the passengers protested, one alleged that the ship, with a capacity for 200, was overloaded.
A head count during the evacuation recorded 400 passengers.
When asked to confirm the number of passengers, a lone woman supervisor of the shipping companysaid she needed to check the list.
Attempts to get comments from the owner of the shipping company failed but an investigation is being conducted by the PNG Maritime Safety Authority to verify the cause of accident.
Passengers from Kavieng, Rabaul and Bougainville were told to fight the cold night at the wharf area while those from Kimbe and Bialla were asked to return home and come back the next day.
Solomon Queen was later tugged to Kimbe wharf.