Monday 26 January 2015 | Published in Regional
Close to a hundred passengers on a Lady Naomi voyage from American Samoa to Samoa were stuck on the ferry for almost 20 hours at the weekend.
The ferry arrived from Pago at midnight on Friday but the majority of passengers did not get off the boat until well past midday Saturday.
Local authorities had to use a small boat to transfer the passengers to the Samoa Ports Authority’s Marina where they were cleared by Immigration and allowed to go home.
The delay was caused by unprecedented high swells, which made it unsafe for the ferry to dock. At the height of the rough seas, the authorities had to move all ships anchored at the wharf for safety.
The high-swells also caused widespread damage to road infrastructure throughout the country.
At Vaiala rocks and debris were dumped on the road at an area that has already been badly affected by coastal erosion.
Similar incidents were reported from throughout Samoa.
According to the assistant chief executive officer of the Meteorology Division of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Mulipola Ausetalia Titimaea, the rough seas was the result of a tropical cyclone developing near Tahiti.
“We issued a swell advisory on Wednesday,” he said. “This is typical of this time of the year where we have these swells as a result of systems developing and tropical cyclones.”
A passenger on the Lady Naomi forced to ride out the big swells in Pago harbour was Tina Tupuola, of Vaitele-fou, who was on the ferry with her child.
“We were on the boat for nearly a whole day, about twenty hours,” she said. “It was quite scary but I was more worried about my child.”
Tupuola said the crew attempted several times to berth but the high swells made it impossible.
“I couldn’t wait to get on dry land,” she said. “On the boat, you could hear people just praying.”
Another passenger, Sene Vaosea, said the delay was disappointing but there was nothing anybody could have done about it.
“The crew tried their best,” she said. “The water was so high that it covered the wharf’s concrete surface. The crew had to make a decision and I’m glad they put the lives of passengers first.”
Vaosea said quite a number of passengers complained by saying the crew should have taken the risk of berthing.
“But the captain and the crew were only thinking about the safety of the passengers,” she said. “They have more knowledge of what to do during rough times like this and I had faith in them that what they were doing was for the best.”
She said the crew attempted to berth at least three times.
“They couldn’t do it because it was just too dangerous.”
The General Manager of the Samoa Shipping Corporation, Papali’i Willie Nansen, said the incident was a first.
“We can’t berth and we can’t unload the cargo,” he confirmed.
“The next option is to move to Salelologa Wharf to unload people’s belongings there.”
He said the corporation’s paramount concern was the safety of passengers. “That’s why they did their best to bring the passengers ashore first and foremost.”
Letoa Vaoesea, of Faleasiu, spent all of Friday night at the wharf waiting for his family. He said his daughter who was a passenger was his main concern.
“I was getting more concerned with every hour that went by,” he said. “I kept thinking about how they were doing on the ship.”