THE ship that replaced the ill-fated Princess Ashika, the MV Otuanga'ofa is in the country for annual maintenance.
The ship's captain Siosifa Tuangalu said this was the first time the ship, which was a gift from the Japanese government to the Tongan government was undergoing maintenance since its arrival in 2010.
The ship, owned by the Tongan government, but run by a private company Friendly Shipping is crewed mostly by naval officers. Only nine of the 31 crew members are civilians.
Mr Tuangalu said since the sinking of the Princess Ashika, a royal command was issued on the crewing of the ship and thus the inclusion of naval officers was to provide some confidence on sea travel.
Friendly Shipping has looked at various options on where to repair the ship and settled with IMEL's dry docking facilities in Suva. "We had looked at Samoa and New Zealand and while they did the same work, we chose IMEL because it was more effective," Mr Tuangalu said.
"Additionally, their work has been of international class." The ship, which was dry-docked last Friday, was scheduled to be in Fiji until Saturday for the maintenance works.
However, IMEL was able to complete repairs yesterday. Works carried on the vessel include hull maintenance and painting.
The MV Otuanga'ofa can carry up to 420 passengers and is 53m long. It also has the capacity to carry up to 20 vehicles.
The MV Princess Ashika was formerly owned by the Patterson Brothers before it was bought by Tongan government. It sank on August 5, 2009, two months after it was bought. There were a total of 78 passengers lost at sea.