Owners of MV Taimareho land in court for sea tragedy of April 3, 2020
BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
OWNERS of passenger vessel MV Taimareho are facing criminal charges in the High Court, one year after the sea tragedy.
Twenty-seven people lost their lives onboard the ship during a fateful trip from Honiara to the southern region of Malaita on April 3, 2020.
Solomon Islands Maritime Administration (SIMA) filed the charges against the directors, general manager, skippers and the West Are’are Constituency Shipping Company.
SIMA accused them of being responsible for the deaths of the 27 people, who were amongst more than 700 passengers escaping Honiara back to the safety of their villages from the COVID-19 pandemic.
National Government chartered the ship for the people to travel, but it met Cyclone Harold while out at sea, resulting in the tragedy.
In fact a cyclone warning was already issued before the ship set sail from Point Cruz wharf.
The case was called at the High Court before Justice Maelyn Bird for the defendants to enter their pleas.
However, lawyer James Apaniai, who represents the defendants, did not get the disclosures and sought for further adjournment.
He also informed the court that two of his clients were not able to be in court as they are in Malaita.
Apaniai also asked SIMA to provide him the Shipping Conventions as Solomon Islands is a party to various Maritime conventions relating to shipping.
He said some of the charges against his clients referred to a couple of those conventions.
Meanwhile, Director of Public Prosecution Rachel Olutimayin, who appeared for SIMA on this case, told the court that the disclosures were already served to WAC Shipping Company office on the last occasion.
Olutimayin said the defendants were facing a total of 102 counts under the 1998 Shipping Act.
Some of the charges include sending an unsafe vessel to sea, Vessel going to sea without a valid certificate, Taking an unsafe vessel to sea, Disciplinary offences, Failing to keep an official log book, Failing to notify the principal surveyor of change in condition of a vessel and not complying with the international convention on standards of training certification and watch keeping for seafarers.
She also said that a police bail should be imposed on the defendants, so that they can appear when their case is called before the court.
Olutimayin told the court investigations are still open.
Justice Bird after hearing the submissions from counsels adjourned the case to June 28 for possible plea.
The 12 people charged include Michael Roy Galo (ship master) Joe Malepa and Stephen Waina’a (captains) shipping directors Esther Hoasihere, John Bosco Houanihunu, Lawrence Hunumeme, Stephen Maahanua, Aaron Oritaimae, William Parairato and Aloysius Poiohia, and general manager Cypriano Taamora.