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Vegetables worth US$200,000 lost in ship’s sinking

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Sept. 3, 2008) - A fight nearly broke out at the Bismarck Maritime office in Port Moresby when 30 of 50 farmers who flew in from the Highlands region stormed the office for the 10th time yesterday afternoon.

The farmers who lost more than PGK500,000 [US$200,000] in vegetables from the San Pedro, which recently sank in waters outside Central Province, called for the vessel owner to step down from the National Maritime Safety Authority board and called on the National Government to appoint an independent investigator to head the sinking probe.

Yesterday, 30 farmers from Mt Hagen, Chimbu and Goroka visited the Post-Courier after an angry scene at the Bismarck office in downtown Port Moresby to air their grievances. Spokesman Steven Ngonoe, mothers Evelyne Luwa’a and Mary Uma were in tears while talking because they claimed this was not the first time problems with transporting of their vegetables had been encountered.

"We are regular suppliers of kaukau, kumu (greens), carrots, cabbage and other vegetables from Mt Hagen, Goroka and Chimbu to Port Moresby markets, especially Gordon, Malaoro, Koki and others," Mrs. Luwa’a said." We’ve lost more than 20 containers of vegetables, all the way from the Highlands and we travel regularly from Lae to Port Moresby to come and sell and then leave for our home provinces again. We are not first timers, we are regular farmers paying hefty freight and many other charges and this is how we are treated? All we want is for the ship owner to tell us, honestly, that we are going to be reimbursed our money’s worth and not be told by the ship’s Port Moresby office there is no insurance for vegetables especially."

Another farmer said the Government was hell bent on encouraging the Green Revolution and this was not a good way for that to happen.

"We are small entrepreneurs, this is how we earn our living. We work hard to produce vegetables to sell to the people of Port Moresby, Lae and other centers and this is how the Government and the ship owners are going to treat us? Please Prime Minister, help us the small people especially when the times are tough and prices of goods are sky high. We are not regular income earners, we are farmers, the small people that the government is supposed to be protecting, helping and encouraging," Peter Ippiliwai said.

Meanwhile, Bismarck Port Moresby office when approached yesterday said, "Payment of damages will be paid in accordance to the conditions of carriage which can be found in the original bill of lading."

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