Inter-Island vessel, MV Sowides ran aground between 11pm Wednesday night and 12am Thursday, miles away from Pentecost Island.
Sports Minister, Simeon Seule who owns MV Sowides told Daily Post the vessel was on its way to the slipway on Santo when the unfortunate incident occurred. There were 13 crew, including the captain on board and the vessel was also distributing cargos in some ports en route to Santo.
The shipowner confirmed there were no passengers on the ship, except the crew.
“Strong winds and three meter waves tossed the ship on the reef, leaving the vessel written off,” Simeon said.
Contrary to reports, the ship did not sink. He said the crew managed to swim ashore but did not know where they were because it was dark.
In the morning, they were discovered by some people who informed them that they were on South East Pentecost.
Two crew members were injured and flown to Port Vila yesterday afternoon by Vanuatu Helicopters and were assessed by a medical team, but they are doing okay.
“I am sorry that my ship is written off, but I am relieved the crew are safe and did not sustain major injuries,” the shipowner said. Minister Seule said he will charter a flight to Pentecost to bring the rest of the crew back to Port Vila.
He sympathised with his people on Epi over the loss of the vessel but assured them that if God permits, he would purchase another ship to provide service to his people.
The minister reiterated that although he had only purchased the vessel recently, it has at least serviced the northern and central islands.
MV Sowides commenced operations towards the end of March this year.
It made headlines in the Daily Post last month when its operations were challenged by the Office of the Opposition, the Leader of Opposition said the ship was not seaworthy and accused its owner of putting pressure on the Office of the Maritime Regulator (OMR) to allow the vessel to provide normal services.
Minister Seule refuted the allegations against him, saying he had sought advice from OMR. The OMR conducted an inspection on board the landing craft and instructed that the vessel could operate only for a month before it goes to a slipway.
At the time, Minister Seule confirmed receiving the instructions and booking the slipway in Luganville for May.
Daily Post understands the OMR has issued a severe marine warning and it was still effective when the incident occurred.