By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby
Papua New Guinean and Australian police have linked the “black ship” intercepted by the PNG Navy north of Kavieng, New Ireland, last Saturday to a drug haul valued at K1.47 billion (NZ$626 million) in Australian waters, a senior officer said.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Operations Donald Yamasombi told The National that the Australian police and border authorities and the PNG police believe it was the vessel which took bags of cocaine and offloaded them to a commercial fishing vessel, Coralynne, near Lord Howe Island in Australia.
“The boat is alleged to be the boat that took the cocaine and transferred it to an Australian commercial fishing vessel,” he said.
Yamasombi said they were trying to piece together all the information and collate evidence – which they find very little of on board the vessel now anchored at Kavieng port.
“It is a black ship. It does not have a name and has no markings,” he said.
An Australian newspaper report said the boat was detected near Noumea a few days ago.
It was making its way through PNG waters when the HMPNGS Moresby, which was near Kavieng at the time, was alerted.
Captain Nathan Tombe and his men intercepted the foreign vessel in a fisheries protection zone called the “Morgado Square”, north of Kavieng.
“We warned the crew of the ship by bullhorn to stop for inspection,” he said.
“However, the warning was ignored, as were warning shots fired over the bow of the ship.
“As a result, the HMPNGS Moresby drew alongside the vessel and fired wounding one crew member. The ship pulled up and was ordered to accompany us to Kavieng.”
Kavieng Hospital confirmed that the wounded crew member, reported to be the captain, was recovering after an operation.
Yamasombi said if the ship had a name, it would be easy to find out where it came from.
Police are hoping that Australia can provide some information “so we would be able to know the details of the boat”.
Tracking the ship’s route
“As it is, we are working with the National Maritime Safety Authority to track the ship, looking at the route it travelled.
“If the transponder had been switched on, it would be easy to track it,” he said.
The nine crew members are likely to face charges under the Migration Act and Fisheries Act, he said.
“The crew members are under investigation because it is alleged to be a fishing boat.
“We will let Fisheries do their side of investigation and then we see what possible charges we can lay on them,” he said.
“illegal entry” was the appropriate charge under the Migration Act.
The National newspaper articles are republished by the Pacific Media Centre with permission.