By GYNNIE KERO
TEN Papua New Guinea flagged vessels have moved off shore as a result of stringent work permit and visa requirements, PNG Fishing Industry Association (PNG FIA) says.
In a brief to Prime Minister James Marape last month, chairman Sylvester Pokajam urged the Government to relax the requirements after the fishing vessels were reflagged to other parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA) nations.
PNG has an approximate total catch volume of 316,278 metric tonnes valued at US$496 million (K1.68bil).
Because more than 50 per cent of its catch is from PNG flagged vessels and locally-based foreign vessel (LBFV), its contribution, combined with harvesting and processing, is US$257 million (K874mil), balance of payment US$317 million (K1.078bil) and employment of 11,912.
All these contributed to the growth of the country’s domestic tuna industry.
The Government strategy in encouraging and promoting the domestication of the tuna industry, among others, is the reflagging of the foreign flag to PNG flag.
In an instance where the industry charters a foreign flag vessel to be LBFV and linked to an onshore processing plant in PNG, work permit and work visa were not required.
However, as soon as the same vessel reflags to PNG flag, it is then subjected to work permit and work visa requirements.
The Government’s policy was aimed at encouraging as many LBFVs as possible to reflag to Papua New Guinea.
Pokajam said: “The industry fully supports government policy in this regard and therefore would like to see that work permit and work visa are not required, perhaps, for the foreign crews based on PNG flagged vessels.
“Last year, we saw 10 PNG flag vessels reflagged to other PNA countries because of the relaxation of work permit and work visa by them and these vessels go port to port in PNA countries,” he said.
“The continuous trend of PNG flagged vessels reflagging to other PNA member countries is a very serious matter and thereby giving a negative image to PNG’s current fisheries policy and the climate it operates under.
“The reason they reflag to other PNA countries is pretty straight forward due to these two openly known facts: other PNA members give discounts on the days sold to their vessels, and allow these vessels access to the eastern high seas pocket.”
Some benefits to the country from PNG flagged vessels include the fact that the vessel is 100 per cent under control of PNG and subject to full application of its relevant policies, acts and regulations.
The catch and exports pertain to PNG, export earnings are returned to the country.
Moreover, the PNG flagged vessels are required to make port calls in designated ports such as Wewak, Madang, Lae and Rabaul and spend up to K40,000 per port call or about K12 million per year in spin-offs that are earned by the local people from local markets purchases, restaurant, agency fees, security costs among others.
By GYNNIE KERO