MV Princess Ashika

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The MV Princess Ashika was an inter-island ferry which operated in Tonga. The vessel, built in 1972, began sailing the Tongan route on 7 July 2009 only to sink less than a month later on 5 August. Official figures released by Operation Ashika on August 19, 2009, confirmed that 54 men were rescued, and 74 persons were lost at sea. These include two bodies recovered and 72 missing (68 passengers and 4 crew), including five foreign nationals. Two of the missing passengers remain unidentified. The ferry was completed in July 1972 at the Shikoku Dockyard in Takamatsu, Japan, and was named MV Olive Maru No. 1. In 1985, she was renamed MV Princess Ashika after the only daughter of a Fijian operator named Raj Naidu who operated a shipping company named North West Shipping and who imported the ship to Fiji in 1985 from Nagasaki Japan. In 1989 and after initial coup era in Fiji, Mr Naidu sold the ship to the Patterson Brothers Shipping Company Limited who continued to operate this ship for the following 20 years prior to it being sold to the Tongan government. The ferry was travelling from the capital of Tonga, Nuku?alofa, to Ha'afeva when it sent out a mayday call just before 2300 hours on 5 August 2009, followed by a distress beacon. The distress beacon was sent five minutes after the mayday call. One survivor described a "big wave" and "much water", claiming that it had happened very quickly. A P-3 Orion plane from the Royal New Zealand Air Force located a trail of wreckage 86 kilometres (53 mi) northeast of Nuku?alofa. When darkness fell, search boats ceased searching for fear of sailing over survivors in the water. Several women and children were on the ferry at the time it sank. Due to the possibility that stowaways may have been onboard it is impossible to confirm a precise number of passengers. One 48-year-old British national was killed, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was resident in New Zealand at the time of his death.] MFAT is liaising about repatriation. There were said to be around ten Europeans on board the ferry. An ROV operated from the HMNZS Manawanui returned photos of the wreck on 18 August 2009. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]





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