Thursday, February 2, 2012

MV Rabaul Queen sinks in Papua New Guinea – many feared dead !!


In a  Quiz for school students conducted by me recently, I could not resist putting a Q on the Cruise loss and was happy when most students were able to write ‘Costa Concordia’  - the tragic tale of the vessel hitting a rocky outcrop as it sailed past the island of Giglio at  about 9:40pm, nearly three hours after leaving port,  has hit International headlines.

The luxury vessels called Cruise Ship or Cruise liners are passenger ships used for pleasure voyages – it is not of moving from a place to another, it is more of enjoying the amenities on board and being part of the travel experience on such a grandeur ship that excites people.  Mostly Cruise liners place back the passengers back to their originating port and are not like cargo liners which are on administered voyage from Port to Port traversing continents.  A trip or even a night on a Ocean cruise is lavish and very costly.   They look great, have doubled in weight over decades, they have flatter bottoms enabling entry into more harbours and have thousands of people on board. 

The ill-fated  MS Costa Concordia is a cruise ship operated by Costa Crociere, owned by British-American Carnival Corporation. She was built at Fincantieri's Sestri Ponente yards in Italy. The name Concordia was intended to express the wish for "continuing harmony, unity, and peace between European nations.  On Friday 13 January 2012 Costa Concordia struck a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea just off the shore of Isola del Giglio, near the western coast of Italy.  This tore a 160 ft long gash in her hull; with water flooding in and listing, she sailed to shallow water nearby where she grounded and capsized. All but 33 of the 3,229 passengers and 1,023 crew were saved.

You don’t read much about  Papua New Guinea, the Independent State  in Oceania, occupying the eastern half of the island of New Guinea and numerous offshore islands -  located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean with Port Moresby as its capital – but this tragic accident has made people read more.   The 1983-built, 259 gross ton, Papua New Guinea-flagged passenger/ro-ro ferry MV RABAUL QUEEN is believed to have sunk in bad weather off Papua New Guinea with as many as 350 people on board. The operators, Star Ships, said it lost contact at about 6 AM (local time) today – 2nd Feb 2012,  while sailing between Kimbe and Lae in the eastern part of the Pacific nation after a distress signal was sent by the ship.

PNG’s National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) said the ship had capsized but it was awaiting more details from officials on the site. Star Ships added that some survivors have been found.  One report said that at least 28 passengers have been rescued, while many more were in the water in life jackets.  Australia’s foreign office said it “has responded to a request for assistance by arranging for aircraft to overfly the area, and will respond to other requests”.  Two helicopters and a ship had been dispatched to search the area in addition to the two search and rescue vessels sent out by the NMSA.

Star Ships, one of PNG’s largest passenger ship operators, runs a regular service to the the islands, including New Britain’s Kimbe and this ferry reportedly had an estimated 350 passengers on board when the mishap took place.  Quoting  PNG's National Maritime Safety Authority, there are reports that the vessel sank approximately 16km (9.9 miles) off Finschhafen.  Latest reports put that  Rescuers have plucked 50 survivors from the sea.  An airplane from Australia, three helicopters and six ships were scouring the search area after the MV Rabaul Queen went down.

The likely loss of higher number of lives makes the incident sad. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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