Overcapacity, Bad Weather Blamed for Capzising of Wooden Boat in Ambon
Ambon. Witnesses on Monday blamed overcapacity for the capsizing of MV Putri Ayu in Central Maluku waters, as rescuers rushed to find at least 15 more missing passengers.
According to the manifest of the wooden boat that sank early on Sunday, there were 27 people on board the boat that had a listed capacity of 40 passengers.
The boat was also carrying 39 tons of goods or some 50 percent of its capacity, according to the manifest.
But Asriel, a would-be passenger from South Buru island, said the boat was carrying more than the manifest suggested.
“I saw it myself. There were so many building materials being loaded by workers on board the Putri Ayu,” he said. “ There must have been at least 400 pieces of steel bars and hundreds of sacks of cement. The wooden boat was too small for them.”
Seeing that the boat, which was bound for Namrole in South Buru, was carrying more than it should, Asriel said he and his family decided to board another ship, Malona.
Malona and Putri Ayu departed from the Slamet Riyadi port in Ambon around the same time on Saturday and both were hit by rough weather and high waves.
While Malona decided to head back, Putri Ayu decided to sail through the weather before capsizing near the Pulau Tiga islands in West Leihitu subdistrict.
Asriel said he didn’t buy tickets from the ticket counters, opting instead to pay the captain once onboard.
“So probably there were more than 27 people on board because there are a lot of people who did the same,” he said.
However, Ambon’s Coast Guard and Port Administrator chief Benny Manuputty insisted that the Putri Ayu “was not carrying more passengers or cargos than it should.”
“The information gathered from a number of would-be passengers that Putri Ayu was sailing over capacity needs to be proven. We are still determining why the boat sank,” he said, but added that bad weather was likely the cause of the boat’s sinking.
The Maluku Regional Representatives Council (DPRD) said it would seek an explanation from the Port Administrator about the incident.
“As of now, we cannot summon them yet because they are still busy looking for the missing victims and tending to the wounded,” DPRD member Jafet Damamain said.
The DPRD, he said, is also asking the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) whether it sent out rough weather warnings to the port and, if so, why the port allowed the ship to sail in such conditions.
“The council will ask all related officials to determine who authorized the Putri Ayu to sail,” Benny said. “They didn’t allow big ships to exit the port, but why was a boat the size of Putri Ayu allowed to sail from the Slamet Riyadi port in Ambon?”
DPRD member Habiba Pellu said the council’s C Commission, which oversees infrastructure and transportation, will conduct the hearing and is preparing an official invitation for the Transportation Agency and Port administrator.
“It seems like there is no clarity about how many passengers and cargo were on board and the ship when it exited the Slamet Riyadi port on Saturday,” she said.
So far, a total of 12 people have been rescued, according to West Leihitu Police chief Second Insp. Zet Riry. All survivors were taken to the Haulussy State Hospital in Ambon.
“There are two victims who were seriously injured from fish bites,” Zet said.
Maluku Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD) secretary Kiftly Wakanno said that local fishing communities around the crash site were employed to search for the missing passengers.
Among those still missing are the ship’s captain and crew.