By Samisoni Pareti
Authorities are confident the stricken inter-island ferry the Liahona 2 with 121 passengers and 10 crew in Fiji’s southern waters will be able to reach land safely this evening.
A statement issued this afternoon by the Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) under its acting CEO Captain Philip Hill says the boat is expected to arrive in Vunisea, Kadavu’s main port, at around 2000 hours.
“Based on the report I received, all passengers are safe and the vessel is slowly proceeding to Kadavu travelling at a speed of three and a half knots,” said Hill. “The vessels is expected to arrive to arrive in Vunisea in five (5) hours time,” he added. His statement was posted on MSAF’s Facebook page at around 1330 hours.
The Liahona 2, operated by a Suva-based company departed for Kadavu after 11pm on Saturday night from the Suva wharf full of passengers wanting to spend Easter with their families on the island. The boat reportedly encountered rough seas a few hours later, resulting in the loss of its forward ramp.
Hill said the ship reported this incident to MSAF at around 830 today.
Working with the Fiji Maritime Surveillance and Rescue Coordination Centre at the Fiji Navy headquarters, Hill said the stricken ship has been given the go ahead to proceed at slow speed to Kadavu.
“MSAF along with Fiji Maritime Surveillance Rescue Coordination Center (FMSRCC) including Government Shipping Services are closely monitoring the situation and we will be able to comment further once a full report from the boat master is received.
“The Captain is providing position update hourly. The Navy vessel RFNS Kikau has departed to provide escort to the Liahona for its safe passage to Kavala.”
This roll-on roll-off boat reportedly underwent major repairs and refit at the Fiji Ship and Heavy Industries’ slipway in Suva in March this year including reinforcing its steel hull and changes to the ship’s rudder and propeller.