PNG ILL-EQUIPPED FOR SHIPPING EMERGENCIES

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Recent near-miss could have been environmental disaster

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 27, 2011) – Papua New Guinea’s National Maritime Safety Authority says it’s not equipped to deal with a major shipping incident.

The senior search and rescue coordinator says favorable weather and an Australian warship averted an environmental catastrophe off the coast south east of Port Moresby earlier this week.

Freddie Siroi says a German container ship, the Vega Fynen, was on its way to Lae on Monday when it lost power to its main engine and began drifting towards a reef.

He says it was fortunate that the HMAS Broome was in the area and able to be diverted to tow the ship to safety.

[PIR editor’s note: The HMAS Broome was in the midst of docking in a nearby port when the call for help was received. For six hours, the Australian patrol boat towed the German ship till it could be connected with a commercial tugboat.]

"The weather in the area improved towards the evening so the drift slowed more down so we were betting on nature not to turn away from us and lead us into a more catastrophic ending," according to Siroi.

Freddie Siroi says work is underway to ensure that the maritime safety authority can respond to such events without having to rely on outside help.

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