The Ministry of Transport has detained all three “deficient” inter-island ships belonging to Taio Shipping Limited.
It comes amid public questions about the shipping line’s safety precautions, after a small boy was lost overboard from the MV Lady Moana, en route from Rakahanga to Rarotonga.
The Lady Moana, along with sister ships Grinna II and Maungaroa II, have all been detained in Rarotonga’s Avatiu harbour by Ministry of Transport investigators.
Their inquiry follows the disappearance of Auckland-born Rakahanga 7-year-old Lapana Tupou, lost at sea last month.
One shipping source said the inquiry and the boats’ detention was likely to herald a maritime industry shake-up. “There will be significant lessons learned from this investigation.”
In Auckland, Lapana’s parents Junior and Matapo do not have a body to grieve. But yesterday, a “gathering of comfort and hope” was held to remember their son.
Family from around New Zealand, Australia and the Cook Islands gathered at East Tamaki Cook Islands Christian Church in Otara to commemorate Lapana.
Hundreds filled the pews and gazebo outside the church, with many wearing blue ribbons and blue t-shirts bearing the words "forever in our hearts" and his name, Tutteto Junior Lapana Tupou.
Lapana’s sisters held each other tightly, crying, as the youngest, Metuakore, said she would miss getting her "smart and loving" brother ready for school and making him breakfast.
Family, friends and staff of Chapel Downs Primary School remembered Lapana as a "beautiful boy" with the "biggest smile". His "best friends", Devin and Tihau, spoke tearfully of their “best buddy”. Devin performed a haka, in his honour.
The message throughout the gathering was to never give up hope.
Last night Taio Shipping director Josiah Taio confirmed the Ministry of Transport investigation, saying it was related to some “deficiencies” in the boats detected by the ministry surveyors.
Taio said they needed “those items repaired” before they could resume their services.
“It’s a random survey and we can’t ignore the survey report. We are complying with everything,” he said.
“It’s normal for ships to have deficiencies, things always break down, it’s part of the shipping industry but we are working on those issues and trying to get them repaired soon so that we can resume our normal service.”
Taio said repair works on Grinna II and Maungaroa II were 95 per cent complete. They would start working on Lady Moana once these two vessels had fully complied with the ministry requirement as per the investigations.
He said both, the Grinna II and Maungaroa II, have cargo onboard and were due to travel to the southern and northern group islands soon.
Taio said any delay in their service would mean they were still working through the issues detected by the surveyors.
“Without doubt holding up the ship is affecting the outer islands we have been solely servicing. I would like to request the outer islanders to bear with us as we work with the Ministry of Transport to get these ships cleared and back in operation.”
Secretary of Transport John Hosking refused to comment yesterday, referring all queries to the shipping company.
In New Zealand, a Givealittle page was set up for the Tupous. To date, it's raised $2978.