Ferry Sinks Off Tonga

MV Princess Ashika

MV Princess Ashika

On August 5, 2009, the car ferry MV Princess Ashika sank in Tonga’s Ha’apai Goup while plying between Nuku’alofa and Neiafu. At last report, almost a hundred people are missing and presumed drowned. The ship went down within minutes at 11 pm and those sleeping below decks would have had no chance of escape. Apparently, the 54 survivors were on the open deck at the time. The cause of the sinking is still uncertain but it is known that the cargo shifted to one side as the ship tossed in high seas just before rolling over.

The Princess Ashika was built in Japan in 1972 and since 1985 had been used by Patterson Brothers Shipping on the Buresala-Nabouwalu-Ellington Wharf run in northern Fiji. On July 7, 2009, it arrived in Tonga after being purchased by the Shipping Corporation of Tonga to replace the MV Olovaha which was considered unsafe. It’s rather ironic that in August 2003 the Princess Ashika itself was used to rescue the passengers and crew of its sister ship, the MV Ovalau, which sank two kilometers off Nananu-i-Ra island, Fiji, after springing a leak the ship’s pumps could not control. On that occasion no lives were lost as it took several hours for the Ovalau to go down. Now the Princess Ashika has joined its sister in a far more tragic way.

concerned individual says:


I am writing to express my sadness and sorrow for the losses of the tradegy named the Princess Ashika. The Princess Ashika is the name of my little sister who my father absolutely adored so much that he bought this ship from Japan in 1985 and named it after her. When the coup occured in Fiji in 1987 and my father lost his business and sold the Ashika to the Patterson Brothers Shipping in 1989 and we migrated to New Zealand and then to Australia and in the meantime lost my father on the way. The ship never lost its name and very sadly ended this way.

The Ashika was my fathers dream and being the most successful indian businessman in Fiji during his time, would never have dreamt that this boat where i used to spend most of my childhood would end up in such a tragedy. When i heard what happened I really felt for the family and have been overwhelmed by the losses that each respective family have been feeling and I am praying for all of you. When dad bought this ship from Japan in came through seven typoons undamaged and was a rock solid safe and well maintained vessal.

The thing that concerns me that the previous owners (Patterson Brothers) have lost four vessal- The Romanada, jubilee, The ovalau (in 2003) and now the ashika through sinking incidents. I am not making any accusations but it is interesting to point out that the patterson brothers shipping has a very poor maintanance records as shown by the investigation by a commission into the sinking of the ovalau in 2003. In the inquiry of the sinking of the Mv Ovalau the head Justice Devendra Pathik found Patterson Brothers Shipping guilty of negligence by ignoring the telling signs of wear and tear at the ship’s hull and also found the failure of the Fiji Islands Marine Safety Administration (FIMSA) to properly follow and enforce the Marine Act and Marine Regulations was cited as a major contributing factor.

As so many lives have been lost there needs to be accountability as this ship was only sold a month ago and it has now sunk. I would ask the coronial inquest to take into account of patterson brothers shipping and to undertake investigations as appropriate to see if there was something which could have identified to prevent this tragedy from occuring.

God Bless

Concerned individual

Helen Matavesi says:

hello i just want to send my condolences to all the families who lost their loved ones on princess Ashika..it sadded me to read about this..may they all rest in peace..God bless..
helen matavesixx

adil says:

I think the all families who lost their loved ones on the Princess Ashika..it sadded me to read about this..may they all rest in peace.