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Rabaul Queen Owner To Stand Trial For Manslaughter

Rabaul Queen shipowner, Captain Peter Sharp, will stand trial for those killed on board the ferry when it went down in 2012. This is after a Papua New Guinea (PNG)
15 Apr 2015 09:05
Rabaul Queen Owner To Stand Trial For Manslaughter

Rabaul Queen shipowner, Captain Peter Sharp, will stand trial for those killed on board the ferry when it went down in 2012.

This is after a Papua New Guinea (PNG) magistrate ruled on April 9 against a defence submission to have the manslaughter charges dropped.

British passport holder Sharp faces charges of 171 counts of manslaughter – one each for those confirmed killed when the ferry, heavily overloaded, sank off the PNG coast in rough seas in February 2012.

Also facing charges under sections 302 and 331 of the Criminal Code of manslaughter and sending an unseaworthy vessel to sea are Rabaul Queen Captain Anthony Tsiau, chief mate Michael Zirau, and former Rabaul Shipping PNG Ports Kimbe branch port manager Grace Amen.

Magistrate Oakaiva Oiveka refused an application by the defence lawyers to strike out the charges of manslaughter against the defendants, local press covering the hearing reported.

Oiveka told the Kokopo Committal courtroom, he found sufficient evidence to warrant the matter to go before the national court. A date for the trial is yet to be set.

Three National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) officers were charged for manslaughter in 2013 – one has since died and another, NMSA Madang manager, Carl Kamau, was earlier set to stand trial.

Charges against the NMSA Rabaul manager Joseph Titus Kabiu, however, were dropped by the court because of insufficient evidence.

Speaking on behalf of the victims and their families, Tommy Yep told IHS Maritime the trial was long overdue.

“We are all wishing that this matter can be concluded soon so we can all have a sense of closure to this tragedy. The continuous delays help no one,” he said.

“Justice delayed is justice denied to the victims.”

Yep’s son went down with the ferry, but managed to escape out of a porthole and was one of 246 rescued at sea in a joint Australian/PNG mission involving six merchant vessels.

Rabaul Queen was carrying an estimated 350 passengers to Lae when it sank on February 2, 2012.

Investigations into PNG’s worst maritime disaster began in February 2012, with a Commission of Inquiry recommending manslaughter charges be laid.

Chief Inspector Ben Turi, who led the police investigation team and arrests in 2013, told IHS Maritime he was happy with the outcome, but was frustrated by the delays.

“It’s been one year and seven months to come to trial,” he said.

“It was supposed to take three or four months. It’s just taken too long.”

 

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