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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (August 25, 1999 – Post-Courier)---The Government has hired a U.S. company to carry out the repair and upgrading of navigational aid equipment in PNG waters.

Global Works of USA will undertake the program in partnership with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority at a cost of K 1.45 million (US$ 496,000).

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Bart Philemon announced yesterday that the Asian Development Bank is sponsoring the project.

Mr. Philemon thanked ADB for the help.

Ship operators last week expressed concern that the navigational aid network had collapsed, raising concern over the safety of ships, their crew and cargo and the marine environment.

They said numerous concerns had been raised with the Department of Transport, but a lack of funds had not allowed repairs and improvement to collapsed lighthouses, buoys, beacons, and sectoral lights on reefs and capes that guide ships, especially at night.

"I must admit here that many aids to navigation have been vandalized or have not being operational for the last few years and my department was unable to carry out a regular maintenance program due to financial constraints. I, therefore, would like to very much thank the ADB for such timely technical assistance,'' Mr. Philemon said in a statement.

He said the contractors would look into the existing marine navigational aids in PNG waters and recommend to the department a sustainable management mechanism for an effective maintenance program.

"The objective is to establish a reliable and credible system for safer and more efficient access to PNG ports and passage through PNG coastal waters,'' he said.

Mr. Philemon said the project, which began July 6, is expected to be completed within six months.

The Minister has directed his department to investigate allegations about the operation of two ships belonging to the department, the MV Sepura and the MV Kulasi. (Retired principal ships surveyor and safety officer Captain Frank Wales said earlier this week that the ships were used as brothels.)

Mr. Philemon said the allegations were very serious and an immediate investigation must be carried out.

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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