by Fabian Hakalits – EM TV, Port Moresby
EM TV has featured several stories of people missing at sea and their rescue operations.
Now the agency that regulates movements in Papua New Guinea’s waters, the National Maritime Safety Authority, is concerned about these events, which indicate ignorance to laws and warning messages.
A law will be fully implemented to prosecute those persons using small crafts.
The Small Craft Act (2010) is a law that provides the safety of persons using small crafts for construction, equipping, operation and registration-related matters.
The National Maritime Safety Authority is serious because of the many incidents involving people using small crafts to travel within PNG waters, ending up missing and found at sea.
Recent incidents include 11 people from Madang who were found in West New Britain after drifting for over 10 days in a 23-foot banana boat powered by two 40 horsepower motors. The boat was returning from Baluan Island in Manus on a betel nut trade mission.
In Central province, two people are still missing after their boat capsized.
Between New Britain and the Huon Peninsula in Northern New Guinea is the Vitiaz Strait. A boat carrying five people also encountered similar problems, but was rescued.
In Western Province, 21 people in two separate incidents drifted between Baimuru to Gulf Province after encountering engine problems, but were rescued by OK Tedi vessels.
Acting General Manager, Captain Nurur Rahman was disappointed as people were not taking warning messages and travelling, despite messages on the change in weather patterns.
The National Weather Service has advised for people to take precautions, while expressing concern over cumulative rainfall projections in the New Guinea Islands and Southern regions.
The National Maritime Safety Authority will enforce the Small Craft Act (2010) to ensure boat operators and the travelling public comply by the law.
For those who take out unsafe craft to sea, penalties will apply as a result of breaching the law.
Part Four of the Small Craft Act (2010), Construction and Safety of Small Craft Offences:
Where a small craft is operated or goes to sea without complying to any applicable construction or safety standard the owners and captain will be arrested, charged and locked behind bars.
All maritime users, particularly small craft owners, operators and passengers, must comply with safety precautions to ensure their safety at sea, especially during the current weather condition.
On the ‘Establishment of Provincial Small Craft Registration Boards, Registrars, Inspectors and Other Staff’, Captain Namur said it is important that every disaster office receives an alert notice before any voyage.
The Autonomous Region of Bougainville is the only centre that is implementing this and other provinces must also implement this call.
For Section 38 of the PNG Constitution, the Small Craft Act (2010) was made to encourage public interest in public safety, order and welfare to the extent that this Act regulates or restricts any of the following rights to freedoms.