On August 18 the Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV) operating from the Royal New Zealand Navy Diving Tender, HMNZS Manawanui, has allowed formal identification to be made of the sunken vessel resting on the seabed as the Princess Ashika.
The ROV identified the vessel by allowing the Royal New Zealand Navy’s (RNZN) Diving and Underwater Search Team to read the ship's name plate. Conditions on the surface are not currently favorable but the Navy team is continuing with its efforts. The water clarity is reported to be very good and this has allowed the team to conduct a thorough search of the sunken vessel.
One side of the Princess Ashika is obstructed and the ROV is unable to see into the passenger compartment. The vessel is sitting flat on the seabed and appears to be intact. No images of the vessel from the ROV are currently available.
The ROV has been able to enter the cargo hold and is providing information to the Transport Accident Investigation Commission investigator. The Navy team onboard Manawanui is continuing with its operations and hopes to return to Nuka’alofa tomorrow as planned.
The Commanding Officer on site, Lieutenant Commander Andrew McMillan, said, "Although the team are very happy to have formally identified Princess Ashika, they are frustrated and disappointed at not being able to provide any further information that may bring closure to the Tongan people".