Air Niugini blamed for acid spill

National, Normal


THE consignor and the forwarding agent of the highly toxic sulphuric acid, which spilled during airport transfer last week, maintained that they have complied with internationally accepted handling and storage procedures.
Both the Central Public Health Laboratory (CPHL) and Post PNG confirmed yesterday that the dangerous substance was properly packed and checked in Port Moresby last Friday to be flown to Kundiawa, Simbu province, when it was accidentally dropped, injuring the porter who was handling it.
Port Moresby General Hospital director of medical services Dr Philip Golpak said yesterday its CPHL staff were not certified by the International Air Transport Association to handle and pack dangerous goods like sulphuric acid for transportation, so they relied on Post PNG to do that.
“To ensure the safe handling of the two bottles, which contained one litre each of the substance, were labelled by CPHL staff and PNG Post’s Express Mail Service couriers were clearly notified about the dangerous contents,” Dr Golpak said, adding that they had done their part as required by law.
Post PNG CEO Peter Maiden said in an email to The National earlier in the week that “Post PNG does not have any comments” on the spill at Jackson Airport’s Air Niugini cargo terminal after the cargo was delivered by its forwarding subsidiary EMS.
However, The National was reliably informed by people familiar with the EMS procedure that all handling requirements were followed and checked before the cargo was delivered to the airport to be flown to Kundiawa.
The content was checked and the consignor and consignee addresses were verified before the package was delivered, The National was told.
Yesterday, the PNG Trade Union Congress secretary-general John Paska added support to the claims by calling on Air Niugini, which handled the cargo, to improve its workplace safety procedures by providing safety equipment like gloves, goggles, safety boots and overalls for its cargo handlers, including porters who handle dangerous substances.
Air Niugini remained tight-lipped yesterday. Its public relations office said it reserved its comments until a report into the accident was finalised.