Piracy a growing threat along PNG coasts, warns water police chief

PNG Police Sergeant Justus Baupo
Police Senior Sergeant Justus Baupo ... “I have restless nights trying to figure out where I can get funds." Image: PNG Post-Courier

PNG Post-Courier

Piracy is a growing threat in Papua New Guinea’s coastal waters and riverine waterways, warns National Capital District (NCD) water police officer-in-charge Senior Sergeant Justus Baupo.

Combating the problem needs a combined effort, he said.

He said piracy was normally carried out by armed criminals, most of them land-based using small high-powered craft to attack civilians in dinghies and canoes, inter-island ferries, and private yachts.

More brazen attacks targeting barges and oceangoing ships had been attempted too.

Sergeant Baupo said fighting this new threat to the safety of Papuan New Guineans needed vigilance.

He said police were often handicapped and needed community assistance to deter piracy.

There were a lot of challenges faced by police officers, especially funding for accommodation, allowance, fuel, maintenance of the boat’s oil, fuel, parts, and engine.

Expensive exercise
He said it was quite an expensive exercise looking after police surveillance and a fast response boat.

“I have restless nights trying to figure out where I can get funds to fix the boat so it can run the next day,” he said.

“Superiors will ask that we need the boat here and there the next day, but the boat cannot move when one part or piece is not available, so it’s a challenge.”

He praised his men and women for persevering when out on the sea.

“Operating a boat is not easy. We are policemen and women but we need sailors’ skills and spirit out there. We live in a new environment, and they have adapted well,” he said.

“One thing about water police is that you are in the open ocean so you must know the tides, swells, the weather, reefs and where to go, how far to go while carrying out your duties.

“Seamanship is important because you will find yourself in some cases conducting search and rescue, so we have to prepare for all scenarios.

Milne Bay success
“Sometimes I feel for the men but because of the demand of work, they go to find water and biscuits, and we go out to sea.”

He said that their presence in Milne Bay for the last nine months had slowed down piracy there, according to local leaders.

The presence of the police boats was a huge deterrent in Milne Bay waters.

He said another emerging trend in piracy was the stealing of dinghies and motors and reselling them in neighboring provinces.

He cautioned civilians to be vigilant against pirates and report suspicious passengers to police via mobile phones.

Republished with permission.

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