Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


Immediate search and rescue, compensations demanded by families

By Pisai Gumar
PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Feb. 7, 2012) – The survivors and relatives of those who died in the MV Rabaul Queen disaster will petition vessel owner Peter Sharp to take full responsibility for the tragedy.

Yesterday at the Morobe provincial disaster and emergency unit office on Markham Road, the grieving relatives gathered and voiced their demands.

They wanted Sharp to address them in person rather than sending his lawyers or managers.

Among the demands:

  • Arrange tugboats, barges and helicopters for urgent search and rescue;
  • Meet all cost of survivors and various haus krais of the relatives;
  • Meet all the repatriation cost for students as the academic year began yesterday; and
  • Pay compensation for all the lives that have been lost and for the loss of property.

After being told that the Australian search and rescue team on site would withdraw soon, the relatives said Sharp had to take 100% responsibility for the search until all bodies were recovered.

[PIR editor’s note: Three other vessels under Star Shipping Limited, Peter Sharp's company, have been prevented from leaving port in Buka, Bougainville pending compensation to the survivors and victims' families after last week's sinking. Meanwhile, the MV Rabaul Queen is thought to be nearly 1,300 meters under the ocean's surface, possibly holding the bodies of the remaining missing persons. The Post-Courier reports that PNG does not have the resources to mount a salvage mission to recover the ship, according to the National Maritime Safety Authority.]

The relatives of passengers on the ill-fated vessel travelled to Lae from five highlands and Momase provinces and are staying day and night at the disaster office.

A mother, Mary Vura Dubery, who lost her eldest daughter Nemika and her granddaughter, said: "We want their bodies here to give them a decent burial.

"Five days have gone and if any survivors were swept ashore to the islands or beaches by waves, they will starve and dehydrate. They will need immediate assistance. Sharp needs to come out and respond immediately."

They appealed to business houses in Lae to help continue the search.

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