Drama at sea – PNG Navy detains 8 alleged pirates, 1 wounded

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Detained ... the eight crew on board the seized unregistered ship - one was wounded. Only two passports were found on board. Image: EMTV/PNGDF

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

The Papua Defence Force’s Navy has intercepted what news media have described as a suspected Chinese pirate vessel and have detained eight crew members, one with gunshot wounds.

EMTV News reporter Jeremy Mogi reported last night that the unregistered ship had been boarded between Kavieng and Manus after a routine patrol noticed suspicious movement on board.

Yesterday’s The National front page splashed the story under a banner headline: “Drama at Sea”.

According to EMTV, sources from Lombrum Naval Base said 8 crew members of the unnamed vessel had been detained, one of whom is currently admitted at Kavieng General Hospital after receiving gunshot wounds.

The vessel is believed to be operating illegally in PNG waters, with the source saying the navy took aggressive action after non-compliance by the crew who had refused to allow the navy to board the ship.

At present, all crew members are being interrogated by PNG Customs officials with assistance from the Australian Federal Police.

In 2017, the same vessel was intercepted in the Milne Bay waters, with cocaine also being seized from the vessel.

Sighted off New Ireland
Earlier, The National’s Miriam Zarriga reported that an official said the ship had been sighted in waters off New Ireland on Saturday. The navy fired at it when it ignored orders to stop, injuring one of its crew members.

PNG Defence Force Chief-of-Staff Captain Philip Polewara told The National that the unregistered foreign vessel was then escorted back to Kavieng Port by naval officers on the HMPNGS Moresby.

Captain Polewara confirmed that the PNGDF was now assisting police in their investigations into the vessel.

“As it is, I am unable to reveal any more information but can confirm the boat has no name, is unregistered and no other information can be found on it,” he said.

“Only one crew member on board is able to speak English.

“There is no fish on board as well.”

It is understood that naval officers on the HMPNGS Moresby had warned the crew members of the foreign vessel to stop.

But it continued to motor away.

Second warning shot
The officers fired another warning shot but to no avail.

The navy ship then pulled up alongside the vessel and fired shots, wounding the crew member.

A police source in New Ireland confirmed with The National that the crew member who was shot was recovering at the Kavieng General Hospital after an operation.

The vessel is anchored off Kavieng port wharf.

New Ireland police and the provincial administration confirmed yesterday that the incident occurred on Saturday evening as the HMPNGS Moresby was leaving for Lombrum Naval Base on Manus.

Police officers from Port Moresby, accompanied by members of the Australian Federal Police, arrived in the province on Monday to investigate what the ship was doing in the area.

Officers from the police, customs, National Fisheries Authority and Defence Force searched the vessel and found only two passports.

On board were eight men who appeared to be from different countries.

The area where the vessel was intercepted between New Ireland and Manus is known to seafarers as the “Morgado Square”, a protected marine area barred to fishing.

News reports from The National and EMTV are republished by the Pacific Media Centre with permission.

Drama at Sea The National
“Drama at Sea” – yesterday’s National front page graphic. Image: The National
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