Ship skipper dies in clash

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THE captain of a Vietnamese fishing vessel was allegedly killed and a crew member sustained injuries after PNG Defence Force patrol boat fired at the vessel for illegally harvesting beche de mers (sea cucumbers) in Milne Bay waters, police say.
Police Commander Chief Supt Joseph Morehari said yesterday he would request a joint police – PNGDF task force team to investigate the incident which occurred near Budibudi Island in the Samarai-Murua electorate on Dec 23.
“I will write to the Police Commissioner Gari Baki and PNGDF commander Bri Gen Gilbert Toropo to send military and police investigators from Port Moresby to investigate this incident as it may be a concern for the international community. Local police officers will not be involved,” he said.
Morehari said the naval officers fired high explosive bullets that penetrated the gas cylinders that caused the fire and explosion.
“The captain went down with the burning boat while the rest of the crew including those with burns jumped into the sea and were rescued by the patrol boat. The injured crew member has been admitted at the Alotau General Hospital and is now receiving medical attention,” he said.
Morehari said he did not know what caused the naval officers to fire at the boat.
“We just have to wait for an official investigation. But that boat was with two Vietnamese boats caught for illegally harvesting beche de mers. These two boats were brought to Alotau and are now detained at the Sanderson’s Bay,” he said. “And 56 Vietnamese crew are also detained   on these boats awaiting their court appearances for illegally harvesting beche der mers”
PNGDF Chief of Staff Colonel Ray Numa had said the patrol boat had intercepted three foreign fishing vessels in Milne Bay last week and confiscated 77 drums containing sea cucumbers.
Numa thanked the Australian Maritime Border Command and the crew of the naval ship HMPNGS Seadler for the successful operation.

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