The ship is believed to have been certified to carry a maximum of 300 passengers, although regulations on passenger loads are frequently flouted.

Intensive search

The ferry sank in high seas near the town of Majene as it travelled from the port of Pare-Pare on the west coast of Sulawesi to the city of Samarinda in East Kalimantan province.

Indonesia ferry disasters

December 2006
More than 400 people killed after ferry breaks apart and sinks in Java Sea during violent storm.

February 2007
At least 42 people killed in fire on ferry carrying 330 passengers.

July 2007
Passenger ship carrying 70 people disappears off eastern Indonesia after reporting engine failure in stormy seas.

Rescue teams on Tuesday found no more survivors following intense searches in choppy seas, although there was a glimmer of hope when survivors told authorities they had seen dozens of passengers clinging to a fishing platform.

However police air and sea patrols found nothing after scouring the area for six hours, said Lieutenant Colonel Zakarya Rahman, head of the search and rescue operation.

Earlier on Tuesday, Jusman Syafi'i Djamal, the Indonesian transport minister, said investigators were trying to determine why the captain had ignored warnings not to cross the Makassar Strait because of tropical Cyclone Charlotte.

Ferry transport is a crucial means of transport in Indonesia, a massive archipelago of some 17,000 islands and 234 million people.

But the country's ageing transport system has been plagued by a spate of disasters in recent years including ferry and air accidents.

Sea accidents routinely claim hundreds of lives each year, largely due to poor enforcement of safety regulations and overcrowding.

In December 2006, a crowded Indonesian ferry broke apart and sank in the Java Sea during a violent storm, killing more than 400 people.