Marine safety investigations & reports

PNG assistance - Investigation into the foundering of the Papua New Guinea registered passenger ferry Rabaul Queen, northeast of Finschhafen, Papua New Guinea on 2 February 2012

Investigation number:
Status: Completed
Investigation completed


At about 0615 on 2 February 2012, the 42.7 m passenger ferry Rabaul Queen capsized and sank about 9 nautical miles off the Papua New Guinea (PNG) town of Finschhafen. Two hundred and forty six people were rescued during a search and rescue operation that was coordinated by the PNG Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre and the Australian Rescue Coordination Centre. However, at least 142 people are thought to have died as a result of the sinking.

On 16 February, following a request from the PNG Government, four officials from the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) travelled to the PNG capital Port Moresby to offer initial advice to local authorities in safety aspects of the investigation into the sinking.

From that time until 28 June 2012, two ATSB transport safety investigators provided assistance to the PNG Government's Commission of Inquiry into the sinking of Rabaul Queen in accordance with Section 12AA (2)(a)(iii) of the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003. This part of the ATSB’s governing legislation provides for cooperation with authorities in other countries in the interest of transport safety.

The Commission of Inquiry’s final report was presented to the Prime Minister of PNG on 28 June 2012 and it was subsequently tabled in parliament on 5 September 2012. Information, including the Commission of Inquiry's terms of reference, hearing transcripts and final report can be found at:

General details
Date: 02 February 2012   Investigation status: Completed  
Time: 0615   Investigation level: Systemic - click for an explanation of investigation levels  
Location   (show map): Northeast of Finschhafen, PNG    
State: International    
Release date: 28 June 2012   Occurrence category: Accident  
Report status: Final   Highest injury level: Fatal  

Vessel details

Vessel details
Vessel Rabaul Queen  
Flag Papua New Guinea  
Type of operation Passage  
Damage to vessel Destroyed  
Departure point Kembe, New Britain  
Departure time 1 February 2012  
Destination Lae, Papua New Guinea  
Last update 03 April 2020