Trouble in Fiji seas: Vessel’s ramp falls into ocean

The MV Liahona II with its ramp missing while steaming towards Kavala in Kadavu waters. Picture: SUPPLIED/FMSRCC

“AROUND 3am, before passing Beqa, we heard a loud sound.”

This is what a schoolteacher, who was on his way to Kadavu, could recall before being informed that the ramp of the vessel he was travelling in — MV Liahona II — had fallen into the sea.

The teacher was travelling with his family to spend the Easter weekend at Ono Village on Kadavu and was scheduled to return in the same boat on Monday.

“The waves were strong and we heard a sound,” he said.

“We found out about the incident when we overheard the crew members talking about it, but they later came to inform us about it and also took us through the procedures that needed to be taken should anything happen.

“The crew members were able to keep us all calm and I was pleased with how they were able to assist us through the whole process, although our disappointment was that we were not able to spend Good Friday in the village.”

Maritime Commander of the Fiji Navy Commander Ledua Yaco confirmed the Rescue Coordination Centre Fiji (RCC Fiji) received a call on its emergency line at 6.50am yesterday of a maritime emergency onboard the vessel and within 15 minutes the centre was able to liaise with the captain of the vessel to get an update of the situation.

“Following preliminary assessment, RCC Fiji activated its search and rescue (SAR) protocols with the satellite tracking platforms at RCC Fiji, the position of MV Liahona II was being monitored in near real-time as she steamed towards Kadavu at slow speed,” he said.

“An aircraft belonging to Kokomo Island Resort managed to capture images of the MV Liahona II and relayed communications to RCC Fiji via ARSC. At the same time, the RFNS Kikau was dispatched with a rescue medical team from VFR (Fiji) to intercept the SAR target and escort it to Kadavu and render assistance if needed.”

Maritime Safety Authority of Fiji (MSAF) acting CEO Captain Philip Hill confirmed all passengers were safe.

He said they were closely monitoring the situation and would be able to comment further once a full report from the boat master was received.

South Island Shipping operations manager Navin Prasad said the vessel had just come down from the slipway before taking the journey to Kadavu.

He confirmed the vessel had also recently received its seaworthy certificate for another two years.

However, he said, they would be conducting an investigation into the incident.

Mr Prasad said the adverse weather was also a cause of the problem faced by the vessel.

Meanwhile, the RCC Fiji stood down its search and rescue (SAR) operations at 4.47pm yesterday after the Fiji Navy patrol vessel RFNS Kikau safely escorted the vessel to Kavala where passengers disembarked.

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