The National, Wednesday 15th Febuary 2012
By ELLEN TIAMU
MORE blame is being piled on the National Maritime Safety Authority following the sinking of the mv Rabaul Queen after names supplied by relatives and those on the shipping company’s manifest show that about 321 of the 558 people who had been aboard are still missing.
Among the missing people are two crew members – the ship’s chief engineer and the captain of a sister ship of the ill-fated vessel.
The mv Rabaul Queen sank in strong winds and rough seas early on Thursday, Feb 2, near Finschhafen, 60km from of its final port of call, Lae.
“Government and public service slackness has cost me a son,” the father of the missing chief engineer said.
Rev Oala Baru Arua said his son would have still been working on ocean-going tankers had the government and Department of Transport ensured there was a bilateral agreement between Papua New Guinea and the Bahamas.
Arua Baru was an engineer for about eight years on board Chevron’s oil tankers until 2009 when a diplomatic anomaly forced him to be stood down.
Chevron ships are registered in the Bahamas and that country and PNG do not recognise qualifications of seafarers from either country under international maritime laws.
Arua said his son’s employment with Chevron had to be put on hold while that anomaly was corrected. But when that took too long, the young Arua decided to apply for a job with Rabaul Shipping to make ends meet.
Rabaul Shipping is the operator of a string of a number of ferries, including mv Rabaul Queen.
Arua said six months of visiting the minister and Department of Transport and NMSA to expedite the agreement was to no avail.
He said many sea-going vessels operating in the country were not sea-worthy and questioned why they were still allowed to operate.
“NMSA needs to pull their socks up. They are slack in the international arena and nationally and this is the result of it,” Arua said.
“NMSA has a lot to answer for in this tragedy. This is typical public service slackness. I am very disappointed with them.
“It was even more heartbreaking for me to hear from survivors that they were rescued by large ocean-going ships as my son would have known what the engine rooms of these ships looked like. While other survivors got the help from them, he didn’t.”
“I was looking forward to the end of February when his contract would have ended with the company.
“He had said he would come home and put up solar panels at the Bible college where I am principal. But instead of him coming to see me, I come looking for him.”
Arua has expressed disappointment that other members of the crew who had survived had not come out in the media with any remorse for members of the crew and passengers still missing.
“I am happy that they are safe but they should exercise a bit more sympathy and empathy for those who cannot feel the same elation as they.”