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Lack Of Unloading Ports A Problem In PNG

President of PNG Fisheries Industries Association, Pete C. Celso gave a presentation in which he expressed that tuna suppliers are discouraged from Papua New Guinea waters as there are no dedicated unloading ports for fishing vessels. Two day discussions among industry stake holders took place in Port Moresby, PNG.

Foreign tuna vessels can purchase fishing days in PNG waters under the vessel day scheme (VDS) with the condition that tuna catch is discharged within its grounds. Celso stated that due to the distance of port services, turnaround of vessels is slow and is increasing costs.

He said: “Due to the new fishing vessel day scheme (VDS) where vessel owners can purchase and trade days fishing at sea, fishing vessels would like to maximize their stay in the fishing grounds, especially when the catching is good.”

However, the VDS only regulates that vessels pay for fishing days, and non-fishing days spent in the waters are refunded. Tuna seiners in PNG waters have the choice to unload catch at both Wewak and Rabaul fishing ports, and also at canneries located in both Madang and Lae.

Although the Lae cannery lies slightly further from the PNG fishing ground, Wewak and Rabaul are located in equally close distances to the fished waters, where the vessels can undertake transshipment. The Madang cannery is positioned between them and has the shortest distance to the world’s best tuna catching ground. They are both large dedicated wharfs that are capable of serving multiple vessels, with associated cold stores.

The presentation also outlined the view that there should be increased ports for the transshipment of tuna. Fact is that tuna vessels only require the ability to anchor and transfer tuna to carriers for the transshipment process. This means to transship the vessels do not have to moor in the port, so to use all its facilities is not always necessary.

The two day discussions highlighted the view that vessels “want to be as close as possible to the transshipment point.” This may suggest a desire for at-sea transshipment which is not currently allowed in PNG waters by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

Despite the construction of a large tuna port in Lae town, the meeting hosted by the National Fisheries Authority (NFA) highlighted a need for better port services in the PNG Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Although expressing a ‘need’ for closer transshipment facilities in the PNG waters, currently tuna vessels fishing in the EEZ regularly discharge tuna catch in Phonpei, in the Federated State of Micronesia, a much further distance from the PNG waters than the available ports at Wewak and Rabaul.

Now already PNG based vessels probably have the shortest time to fill up their holds with tuna.