EXPLOSIVES SHIPPING HAZARD IN PNG GULF

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EXPLOSIVES SHIPPING HAZARD IN PNG GULF Containers fell from cargo ship near busy sea lane

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, October 8, 2009) – Ships using the waters off Huon Gulf district in Morobe province have been warned to be on guard because two containers believed to be loaded with explosives are in the water somewhere in or near the busy sea lane.

At least two containers of B grade explosives are believed to be among the cargo that fell overboard from the mv Lihir Express last Saturday into the waters of Huon Gulf – gateway to and from the largest port in the country.

The sea lanes and shipping regulatory body, the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA), yesterday issued a terse navigational warning.

It said the mv Lihir Express was believed to have lost around 11 containers, of both 20 and 40-ft length, at 07 degrees 10 minutes south, 147 degrees 23 minutes east on Saturday, Oct 3, at 8.29pm.

"Some containers may contain explosives," the NMSA said.

The mv Lihir Express was stricken near Laukanu village, Salamaua LLG, about 90km from the Lae port.

It limped into the Bismarck Maritime wharf at about 4pm on Sunday, being assisted by the mv Victoria astern and the mv Gulf Glory at its port.

Some loaded containers were still on the ship’s deck.

The containers carrying explosives, said by shipping sources to be of B grade, were believed to be from a chemicals company in Lae. The owners of the cargo would not comment. Shipping agents could not say whether the containers were adrift or had sunk but stressed the need for any container to be quickly recovered or they would pose a danger to ships, marine life and the coastal villagers.

Shipping companies which operate in Huon Gulf waters have been warned that shipping containers do not always sink. They could remain submerged just below the surface and could create enormous problems for all vessels.

The NMSA’s manager of hydrography services, Joseph Kunda, said: "All vessels entering and leaving Lae port or passing through the area are to navigate with extreme caution and report any container sightings indicating their position to the NMSA in Port Moresby."

One of the Government authorities responsible for removing explosives from danger zones, the Papua New Guinea Defence Force’s Explosives Ordinance Disposal Unit, had not been informed about the incident until last night.

The accident happened in a busy sea lane for national and international shipping.

It is a route used by Port Moresby-bound traffic, usually via Oro Bay in Oro province.

According to information from shipping companies, four shipping lines will be sailing in and out of Lae during the next few days and would most probably be passing near the accident site.

Sofrana Line’s Tourville from Brisbane was due in Lae on Tuesday and would be sailing for Rabaul tomorrow.

HUB Line’s Gallardo, which services Asia and Europe, is due in Lae today before leaving tomorrow.

Austral Asia Line’s Cape North is in Lae, while Cape Nelson will berth on Oct 14 on the PNG-China run.

Elsewhere, Swire Shipping lists Pacific Destiny,

Highlands Chief and Tasman Mariner calling into Lae between Oct 6 and Oct 14.

The Pacific Forum Line’s Pacific Navigator will be in Lae from Oct 16-18.

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