Ferry Captain Jailed

JAKARTA ~ The captain of a ferry that sank in January, killing up to 335 people, has been sentenced to nine years’ jail.

The 700-tonne ferry, with a capacity of only 250 passengers, capsized and sank rapidly in heavy seas whipped up by a tropical storm in the Makassar Strait on January 11.

“The judge in Pare-Pare court in South Sulawesi sentenced Sabir bin Andae on Monday to nine years’ in jail because of negligence,” lawyer Muhammad Ridwan said.

“The judge said the number of passengers on the ferry exceeded its capacity and Sabir only had a licence to operate vessels that weigh less than the Teratai Prima,” Ridwan said.

Far from going down with the ship, the captain was one of only 35 survivors. He faced a maximum 10-year jail sentence.

Ridwan said his client would appeal the sentence.

“The judge also said that Sabir had failed to inform the passengers when the ferry was in trouble and about to sink. But it was hard for him to do that,” the lawyer said.

“We decided to appeal against the decision because we believe that the accident was force majeure instead of negligence. It was like a lightning strike – people couldn’t get away.”

The disaster was the worst of its kind in Indonesia since December 2006, when a ferry sank in a storm off the coast of Java, killing more than 500 people.

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