One year on, and charges finally laid over Taimareho sea tragedy
BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
TODAY marks the day that 27 lives were lost at sea following the MV Taimareho sea tragedy and police can now confirm that charges are being laid against individuals in the High Court
Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau confirmed that these people are being charged under the Marine Act.
Mangau said the case file was lodged at the High Court and further details on how many people were being charged as well as what charges they are facing will be revealed soon.
This announcement came as families of the 27 people victims announced this week that they are pursuing legal actions against five defendants in their case which includes; the West Are Are Constituency shipping company, the charterer MP John Maneniaru, MV Taimareho, SIMSA, captain Galo and captain Malepa.
The 27 lives were lost at sea between Malaita and Guadalcanal after the vessel met strong winds and rough seas. It was allowed to embark on its journey despite a cyclone warning issued earlier during the evening of 3rd April 2020.
The vessel was carrying passengers back to their constituency on West Are’are after a nationwide repatriation of people living in Honiara back to their home villages. Out of the 27 that were swept from the vessel only six bodies were recovered during search efforts.
As a result of that incident the police, marine and other stakeholders launched an investigation in to the incident and a report was released last year in May.
Minister of Infrastructure Development Manasseh Maelanga during the release of the report on the sea tragedy highlights that there are a number of recommendations made by the Board in the report dated 30th May 2020.
“These recommendations will now be forwarded to the relevant authorities including the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force and the Director of the Solomon Islands Maritime Authority for their necessary actions.
Maelanga also said that once it reaches the police, they have the ball in their court to deal with the issue according to the law.
The recommendations are:
(a) That the Shipowner and Master violated the following:
(1) Sections 78 (1) and (2) of the Shipping Act 1998;
(2) Sections 8 (1) and (2) of the Shipping Act 1998;
(3) Sections 115 (1) and (3) of the Shipping Act 1998;
Meanwhile, section 78 (1) of the Shipping Act 1998 states “Neither the owner nor master shall permit more persons to be carried in a vessel than the number stated in the passenger ship safety certificate issued in respect of the vessel as being the maximum number of persons that may be carried in the vessel.
Section 78 (2) stated; “Every owner and the master of the vessel who contravenes this section each commit an offence, and each shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars and to a further fine of not more than two hundred dollars for each person carried on board the vessel in excess of the number stated in the passenger ship safety certificate.”
Sections 81 (1) (c) however states every vessel is unsafe if –the vessel is overloaded or improperly loaded and section 81 (2) states “Where an unsafe vessel goes to sea, every person who knowingly sends, and the master who knowingly takes, the unsafe vessel to sea commit an offence, and each shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding sixty thousand dollars..
Section 115 (1) states “No person shall be employed on a vessel as a seaman unless there is in force an employment agreement approved by the principal shipping officer, in writing in the English language, between the owner, or licensed shipping agent, or master and the seaman which agreement maybe-
(a) With respect to employment in one or more vessel; or
(b) For a particular period not exceeding one year; or
(c) For one or more particular voyages.
Section 115 (3) however states every person who acts in contravention of subsection (1) or subsection (2) commits an offence, and shall be liable upon conviction to a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars.
Families of those who perished in the tragedy have formed a Victims Custom Compensation Committee, in which they have pursued legal action against those purported to have given the green-light for the vessel to sail during the night.
Vice Secretary of the Committee Venasio Huniehu said they have engaged a private law firm to proceed with their case.
Huniehu said in their legal suit they claimed $250,000 for expectancy of dependency, $100,000 for expectancy of life and $50,000 for special expense.
This totals up to $400,000 per life.