Peter Sharp, who is originally from Shetland and runs a shipping firm in East New Britain, is accused of sending the Rabaul Queen from port in an unseaworthy condition in February 2012. Sharp also faces multiple charges of manslaughter and criminal negligence.
According to the inquiry into the sinking, the 310-capacity Rabaul Queen was carrying as many as 411 people at the time of the tragedy. A passenger manifest was never completed, so exact passenger numbers are unclear.
Police documents submitted to the court claim that the boat was returned to port with a damaged hull three months before the sinking. According to Papua New Guinea’s The National, the ship’s crew could also face criminal charges over their roles in the disaster.
Sharp, 69, claims that the crash was caused by an act of God and claimed that witnesses to the inquiry were paid to appear. The case has been adjourned until Monday, with Sharp bailed on a bond of Kina 5000 (£1290) and ordered to surrender his passport.