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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 23, 1999 – Post-Courier)---Two Department of Transport navigational aid ships were used as brothels, alleges Captain Frank Wales, the government's now retired principal ships' surveyor and safety officer.

Captain Wales said the MV Sepura and MV Kulasi were also the scene of drunken brawls, mostly involving public servants from the Maritime Safety Division of the Department of Transport.

Wales retired from active service recently after serving in that division for more than 10 years.

He said the two vessels did not fulfill their duties because of mismanagement in the maritime division.

"I am calling for an investigation into the non-performance of the Department of Transport, in particular the Maritime Safety Division,'' Captain Wales said. "Unprofessional management who do not know anything about merchant shipping and the regulations of maritime safety, and their lack of dedication to their duties must be investigated by a government investigation team.’’

The investigation should also look into what he alleged to be bribery and corruption. He said that certain officers were asking for up to K 500 (US$ 171) to process licenses for ships.

On April 24 last year, Captain Wales issued "Stop Orders"' on the MV Kulasi and the MV Sepura, preventing them from operating, because both had not completed annual surveys and did not have survey certificates to operate at sea.

The two vessels were supposed to service 78 navigational aids in 14 maritime provinces. Of these, 34 are in the waters around Bougainville that had not been working due to the decade-long crisis on the island.

According to Captain Wales, the Department of Transport collected around K 2 million (US$ 684,000) annually from ship owners as navaids (navigational aids) contributions.

But, while shipping companies continued to pay the fees, the department did not maintaining most of the navaids, he said.

Captain Wales said the collapse of the navaids poses a serious threat to the 500 major local ships that sail in PNG waters, as well as international ships.

"We have had international ships unable to sail into ports because of the collapse of navaids,'' he said. "This is dangerous. If an oil tanker runs aground, the oil spill will be carried by currents for miles.’’

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

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