Arrested ship crew deny ‘bunkering’, other marine charges in PNG court

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Detained crew members (right) on board the unnamed seized ship which PNG police believe is linked to a recent K1.47 billion (NZ$642 million) drug bust in Australian waters. Image: The National

By Miriam Zarriga in Port Moresby

Three crew members of an unnamed foreign ship intercepted by a Papua New Guinea Navy vessel near Kavieng, New Ireland, last month have denied violating local laws and withholding information from authorities.

In the Kavieng District Court before Magistrate Patrick Baiwan on Wednesday were ship’s captain Shi Kehu from Fujian province in China, second-in-command Ying Kit Lam from Hong Kong, and crew member Mariglen Dhimogjini from Albania.

They will return to court next Tuesday and have been ordered to stay on board the vessel berthed at the Kavieng port, under a 24/7 police guard.

The unnamed vessel which police believe is linked to a K1.47 billion (NZ$642 million) drug bust recently in Australian waters, was intercepted in waters north of Kavieng on August 23 by the crew of the HMPNGS Moresby.

Shots were fired at the crew when they refused to stop.

The captain was later treated in hospital for a gunshot wound.

National Fisheries Authority (NFA) executive manager monitoring control and surveillance Giza Komangin told The National the three had violated provisions of the Fisheries Management Act 1998.

Captain charged
Captain Shi was charged with:

  • REFUSING to divulge names and contacts of persons and vessels that the vessel was conducting bunkering activities at sea;
  • REFUSING to stop the vessel for boarding and inspection by fisheries and navy officials when instructed to;
  • DESTROYING and deleting electronic data and tracks to avoid seizure or detection by fisheries officers;
  • FAILING to comply with requirements of gear stowage when navigating inside PNG waters; and,
  • VIOLATING other state laws to supply fishing vessels with fuel and other supplies an activity requiring a valid fishing licence.

Yong was charged with knowingly giving information that is false and misleading about the operation of the vessel and refusing to divulge names of contacts of person to investigation officials.

Dhimogjini was charged with refusing to divulge names and contacts of persons and vessels engaged in its operation inside Pacific Island waters.

Vessel named Min Shi Yu
NFA officials during their investigations discovered that the vessel’s name was Min Shi Yu 00368 engaged in fishing activities, and supplying fuel and food to other fishing vessels at sea.

On May 1, 2020, it left Quanzhou in China with a crew of seven and picked up Kit Lam and Mariglen Dhimogjini in Hong Kong.

The vessel had no markings to show its name, flag or country of registry, or international radio call sign to show that it was legitimately navigating through PNG waters.

Only three of the nine crew members have passports, five have identification cards, and one has no identification at all and no logbooks or records were available.

Miriam Zarriga is a reporter for The National newspaper in Papua New Guinea. The Pacific Media Centre republishes National articles with permission.

 

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