Saturday, February 24, 2007
The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Investigators suspect negligence on the part of the Levina I ferryboat's operator caused the fire which killed at least 16 people and injured 18 others at sea earlier this week.
At least 17 people are believed missing, although the Indonesian Red Cross said families had reported some 100 possible missing passengers.
Ocean Safety Board head investigator Comr. Ramses Kamsudin said Friday that authorities found, after questioning ship captain Andi Kurniawan, that the boat had not had its sailing documents inspected.
The board is jointly managed by police, the Indonesian Navy, and immigration authorities.
Before setting out for Pangkal Balam port on Bangka Island, the boat, owned by PT Praga Jaya Sentosa, only underwent a mechanical check and a weight check.
Those possibly responsible for the negligence include the ship's crew, the port administrator and the harbormaster, said Ramses.
The 27-year-old roll-on/roll-off ship was carrying 42 trucks, eight cars and five motorcycles.
The fire allegedly started in a truck believed to be loaded with chemical substances. Worse, Ramses said, the captain did not check the truck's contents before sailing.
"He only checked the vehicles' register numbers and types," he said.
The boat's manifest shows there were 275 people on board, but the real number was more than 300.
The ship was not designed for channel crossings and lengthy journeys, Ramses said.
"I am bewildered that this ship was given permission to sail by the port's administration bureau," he added.
On Friday, Transportation Minister Hatta Radjasa ordered his subordinate to temporarily suspend Praga Jaya Sentosa's operating license, pending the completion of the search for the 17 missing passengers and the result of the investigation. (02)