A local ferry operating between Kusamba on Bali's eastern shore and the nearby Nusa Penida capsized and sunk shortly after setting sail from Bali on Wednesday afternoon, August 26, 2009. 9 passengers from a total complement of 27 crew and passengers drowned with two passengers still reported as missing at sea.
Local press reports indicate the ship – the Putra Romo - sailed in normal weather at 3 p.m.. Shortly after leaving Bali's shore, the waves in the straits suddenly intensified, causing the ship heavily burdened with lumber and cargo, to capsize.
Of the nine local passengers who perished in the incident there were 4 adult men, 4 adult women and one child of 6 years. 16 passengers survived the shipwreck and 2 remain missing and are presumed dead. Several of the surviving passengers have been hospitalized due to injuries they sustained.
The Port Master (Syahbandar) at Kesumba, Nengah Warnatha, and the Captain of the Putra Romo, Kadek Geria, are both undergoing police interrogation to determine their potential culpability in the capsizing.
The two missing passengers are Wayan Satu and Wayan Payur, farmers from Nusa Penida whose families have reported that they failed to return to their homes. Search and Rescue teams continue to search the waters at the wreck site and adjoining waters without any trace of the two missing men. Six ships, including one Navy vessel, and one helicopter are participating in the search.
Police Focus Suspicion on Port Master, Captain & Crew
Preliminary investigations suggest the ship was overloaded and failed to carry the required lifesaving equipment at the time of the incident.
A spokesman from the Bali police headquarters revealed that the ship, rated to carry 70 passengers, only carried 27 at the time of its sinking. Authorities fear, however, that the ship left port with more than 10 tons of sand and cement in its hold, a total weight exceeding the ship's safe carrying capacity and in complete violation of the ship's designation as a pasenger vessel. Potentially even more alarming, police told the press that the vessel which, according to law, should carry an over-abundance of 105 life jackets, apparently set sail without a single buoyancy device on board.
A Radar Bali report on Saturday, August 29th, that investigators are narrowing the focus of their investigations on the Port Master and the Ship's Captain as the people who must answer for the loss of life.
Police spokesperson, Gde Sugianyar, told the press that his officers have found numerous mistakes committed by the Port Master and the Captain.
Police reminded that the Port Master has absolute authority to allow ships to sail after verifying that the vessels are seaworthy and carry the required lifesaving equipment. According to police, there were no flotation devices on the ship. Furthermore, the ill-fated ship was classed to only carry passengers between Bali and Nusa Penida when, in reality, it was being used to move passengers, cement and san. Sugianyar said, "there is strong suspicion that the ship sank do to overloading."
The Captain and the Port Master now face the possibility of being charged under a 2008 law governing sea transportation that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and fines of Rp. 1. 5 billion (US$150,000).
Police have indicated that the Captain is being handled as a suspect in the commission of a crime, facing charges of overloading, inadequate safety equipment, and operating a vessel without the required Captain's competency certificate.
Meanwhile, the Port Master is still listed as a witness, but could be changed to a suspect later in the official investigation.
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