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By Ian Kakarere

VANIMO, Papua New Guinea (January 15, 1999 - The Independent)---The ferry service from Vanimo in West Sepik province to Jayapura in Irian Jaya was forced to stop because of ‘illegal’ competition.

Managing director of the Vanimo Resort Hotel, Kym Downes, said her company which operates the M.V. Narimo Express had to stop the ferry service because of competition from local boat owners who she claims are illegally operating passenger services between the two towns.

Ms. Downes said the boat owners have taken advantage of Immigration Vanimo issuing traditional border crossing permits (TBCs) to Papua New Guinea citizens with a PNG passport who are not traditional border dwellers. She said this practice is allegedly carried out outside of office hours.

Ms. Downes said there is often uncontrolled movement of people traveling on locally owned village boats. People pay to travel on these boats which do not have safety equipment, radios, and navigational aids as required by the Department of Marine Transport for boats traveling on international routes.

There are also no customs, quarantine, health and security checks on these boats as they leave and arrive in Vanimo. She said the government is missing out on revenue collection as no departure tax is paid when the travelers leave Vanimo in the village owned boats.

Ms. Downes said her company regrets to stop the service provided to legitimate travelers as there are no passengers. The ferry service has been provided for the last ten years and people are denied the only safe and reliable service to Jayapura.

The Air Niugini service between Vanimo and Jayapura was canceled last year.

She said her company, with the support of the Sandaun provincial government and national government commerce and tourism agencies, recently commissioned a new and faster ferry in an attempted to attract more travelers.

Ms. Downes had written a letter of complaint to the foreign affairs department about the officers' allegedly illegal and irregular procedures.

Meanwhile, the Skou villagers on the Indonesian side of the border lifted their six-day roadblock of the Vanimo-Jayapura highway on Monday. Reports from Vanimo said the villagers claimed that the Indonesian government did not consult them about the indiscriminate use of the highway during the holiday period. The villagers did not mind so much people traveling between the two towns in privately owned buses and taxis, but were particularly upset about Indonesian government owned buses using the highway.

In protest, the Skou villagers blocked the road on January 5. The highway’s construction is completed but it has not been officially opened by both the Papua New Guinean and Indonesian governments.

For additional reports from The Independent, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Independent (Papua New Guinea).

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