Families woke up early yesterday morning excited to go and celebrate Easter with their families and relatives, only to be stricken by a horrific ordeal on their trip which they almost paid with their lives.
The roll-on, roll-off ferry called the Liahona 2 left Suva last night bound for the island of Kadavu, Fiji’s southern most island – Fiji’s incredible natural beauty. , usually an overnight sail away.
The weather wasn’t too fine for a smooth sail but the 121 passengers on-board trusted for a safe passage from the shipping company – but they failed.
SOS call was made from the vessel Liahona II, which was now taking in water because the front ramp – the one that opens up at the bow to let off or take in passengers, had fallen off into the water in the middle of the sea.
Passengers on-board panicked and quickly took pictures and videos and posted on social media, seeking for help.
David Vosawale, Air Terminal Services Staff and a Passenger on Board MV Liahona II [Facebook}
“SOS, plis if any1 could contact relevant authorities, on board Leona 2, enroute to Kadavu, front ramp completely broken, water filling up the boat,” read a Facebook status from a passenger on board.
Emergency services scrambled to activate a search and rescue operations. A SAR Centre was activated at Fiji Maritime Surveillance Rescue Cordination Centre with help of Volunteer First Responder Fiji, Royal Fiji Navy Services and Kokomo Private Island.
The Centre kept constant contact with the vessel and the captain was asked to give in a status report every few minutes.
The damaged vessel was guided by Navy vessel MV Kikau and a helicopter overhead until everyone was seen to safety. The Search and Rescue center was then deactivated .
The Vessel MV Liahona II Was Under Repair Few Week Ago
Almost two week ago vessel MV Liahona was at a slipway for “major maintence work.”
MV Liahona II which is owned by Ulaisai Baivatu operating under Suth Island Shipping Services was up-hauled on 2nd March at Fiji Ship and Heavy Industries Limited in Suva for what the owner claimed “need to upgrade the vessel underwater steel hull and engine works.”
FSHIL had said in a Fiji Sun reporting that the works was been done to “fine tune vessel’s ability to sail the Fiji waters”.
There are number of works that we plan to do with the vessel as per request if the owner.Samuela Vasukira, FSHIL Work Supervisor
Mr Vasukira said that they only did maintenance work which the owner had told them to do, meaning the owner didn’t see that the ramp was a problem then.
MV Liahona II, a second hand wrecked vessel was bought in from Jinhae, South Korea in 2016 in by Brighton Holdings Limited T/A South Island Shipping Services.
The works done on the vessel few week ago included; removal, service and re-fit of starboard rudder, propeller and tail shaft, cropping out of cracked Y bracket, realignment of the starboard side Y bracket and welding of 20 mm steel plates as stiffeners and support to the Y bracket.
As to why the owners didn’t include maintenance of the ramp is unclear. It is also unclear, how the safety check pass was given to this vessel.