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Saturday 14 February 2015 | Published in Regional


Nuku‘alofa – The capacity of Tonga’s inter-islands sea and air transport system has been reduced dramatically during the past weeks as the government tightens up on public transportation safety requirements.

Within nine days from February 1 to 9, the government has grounded the 56-seater MA60 aircraft of Real Tonga Airline and has reduced the number of passengers who can travel on the inter-island ferry MV ‘Otuanga’ofa from 400 to just 150.

Starting at the first week February the government-owned ferry, the MV ‘Otuanga’ofa had to reschedule its weekly service to Ha‘apai and Vava‘u.

It has reduced the number of passengers that it could carry on each trip from 400 to 150 because its liferafts were not fully equipped, according to Mosese Fakatou from the Friendly Island Shipping Agency Ltd, the government-owned company that operates the ferry.

The new schedule for the ‘Otuanga’ofa is that it sails to Ha‘apai and back on Monday, then to Vava‘u and back on Wednesday.

Mosese believes that the authority had over reacted. He said that they should have been given three to five months, to replenish their supplies.

What was missing in the life rafts were first aid supplies, food and water.

With regards to air transport, the cancellation by government of its lease agreement with Real Tonga Airline of the 56-seater MA60 aircraft has taken the aircraft out of service with a devastating impact on air transport between Tongatapu and Vava‘u.

The Real Tonga Airline had announced that they are bringing in a replacement of the MA60 to be in service by mid March.

It has also been revealed that the grounding of the MA60 was because the government terminated the lease agreement between the owner of the aircraft, the government of Tonga and the Real Tonga Airline.

Government is in the process of setting up another airline to operate the MA60 and compete with the Real Tonga Airline.