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By Frank Asaeli

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 6) - Tuna bound for the lucrative Japanese market is being dumped because of disruptions to flights into Japan in recent weeks.

Already, about 500 jobs in the tuna industry have been lost because about 50 boats of long line tuna have stopped operating in PNG, each with an average of 10 jobs. Apart from lack of aircraft space and flight scheduling, high prices of diesel were also to blame.

Air Niugini’s change of international aircraft and rescheduling of flight routes of the newly-leased Viva Macau B767 last month have affected exports of marine products in general, a source said.

The source said Air Niugini had problems with aeroplanes and scheduling therefore, tuna trade was very badly affected and could cost the industry PGK40 million in earnings this year.

"Once caught (tuna), the fish had to be sold within days," the source said. "Constant problems led to Neptune Fishing Company having to withdraw from the fresh tuna business," he said.

Chief executive officer of Air Niugini Limited Wasantha Kumarasiri said senior representatives of the tuna export industry met with Air Niugini on Monday and both organizations had come to an understanding to deliver a solution for the movement of tuna to the respective destinations. He confirmed that part of a consignment of tuna to Japan was offloaded from the Tokyo service last Saturday.

"This was for technical and commercial reasons which Air Niugini would always weigh up in making its decisions for the continued benefit of all of its customers," Mr. Kumarasiri said. He said Air Niugini expected that administrative matters associated with the uplift of cargo between PNG and Australia associated with the operation of its leased Viva Macau B767 would be sorted out shortly.

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