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Shipping Company Branch Manager to stand trial - Papua New Guinea National Maritime Safety Authority

The National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) urges the shipping community in Papua New Guinea to comply with the maritime laws of this country.

If anyone is caught breaching these laws to conduct its business, the Authority will not hesitate to impose the maximum penalty under the Merchant Shipping Act or impose criminal sanctions on the perpetrators.

General Manager/CEO, Paul Unas issued this stem warning after the Committal Court in Wewak found sufficient evidences to commit the Wewak Branch Manager of SeePNG for sending a passenger ship, MV Kokopo Queen on February 2019 out to sea on its voyage to Madang to stand trial at the National Court.

The court was told that the NMSA’s Madang based Ship Inspector boarded the ship upon its arrival in Madang after receiving calls from a reliable person in Wewak that the vessel was overloaded. Whilst the ship was at berthage, the Inspector conducted a headcount of the passengers on board the vessel while they were disembarking.

According to the passenger manifest provided by the ship’s captain, the ship was carrying 134 passengers. However, during the head count, it was confirmed that the ship was actually carrying 142 passengers. According to the PNG Ship Survey Certificate issued by NMSA, the vessel is obliged to carry 100 passengers with a total of 8 crew members of the ship, which brings the total number of persons to be on board the ship to 108. The ship only has 108 safety appliances on board in case of any incidents at sea. The ship at the time was carrying 34 extra passengers, which was a very risky exercise.

NMSA took the matter seriously since lives of persons were involved. The Authority dispersed its Compliance Investigators to Wewak to conduct an investigation into the matter on 17 February 2019. A formal complaint was lodged at the Wewak police station. Police investigators were engaged to conduct the investigation together with NMSA’s Compliance investigators. They found out that the Branch Manager of SeePNG which is a subsidiary of Rabaul Shipping Limited was responsible for sending the ship to sea in such an unseaworthy state, endangering the lives of the passengers and the crew members of the ship.

And as a result, the Branch Manager of SeePNG was arrested and charged under Section 331 of the Criminal Code of sending an unseaworthy ship to sea, endangering the lives of passengers at sea. The maximum penalty under Section 331 of the Criminal Code Act is 14 years imprisonment.

NMSA is mandated to ensure safety of life at sea by enforcing national and International maritime Laws to promote safety of maritime transport and ensure best and safe shipping practice in the country.

In doing its mandated task NMSA’s dedicated inspectors in various field offices carryout regular inspections on ships to ensure compliance and fitness before they are allowed to proceed to sea. Ships are detained from time to time because of deficiencies that call for immediate rectification.

Mr Unas congratulated the joint investigation team led by NMSA’s Manager, Investigations & Enforcement, Joseph Pyawan for their prompt and professional response to the incident.

He encouraged police officers and communities’ leaders in other maritime provinces to work together as has occurred in East Sepik province in order to prevent unwarranted sea incidents to occur due to operations of unseaworthy vessels in their respective provinces.

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