Government cautioned about tighter port controls

A leading Pacific fisheries expert, Bubba Cook, has cautioned the Government to ensure Samoa’s wharves and fishing ports are monitored just as tightly as the airports to keep the coronavirus at bay.

Mr. Cook, who works closely with Pacific governments to manage tuna stocks, says the authorities must pay closer attention to fishing vessels and other vessels that are allowed to dock.

 “Samoa must be vigilant to ensure there is no intentional or accidental transmission of the coronavirus by maintaining strict port controls on vessels, fishing or otherwise,” he said.

“As demonstrated by the recent measles outbreak, it only takes one case to have a devastating impact on the Pacific Island communities.

 “Hospital resources, even in Apia, are limited and an outbreak could strain those resources. If there is an outbreak in some of the more remote communities, it could be devastating.”

The caution from Mr. Cook comes amidst reports that many fishing and other vessels on the water have cases of COVID19. There are reports about an Ecuadorian vessel, which is currently at sea with 29 positive cases of Covid19.

Mr. Cook said these vessels must be kept far, far away from Samoa.

“In light of recent human and labour rights violations on Chinese flagged vessels detained in Samoa, Samoa must also consider how inhumane conditions on board some fishing vessels are contributing to transmission of the coronavirus,” he said.

 “Samoa should strongly support improvements in human and labour rights in fisheries in the interests of not only the rights of fishers not from their country, but the potential impact these vessels could have on all Pacific Island communities if they are allowed to serve as repositories and vectors for ongoing infections.”

Contacted for a comment, the Chief Executive Officer (C.E.O) of Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A), So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo, they taking extra care to ensure the Authority is compliant with the State of emergency (S.O.E) orders for the ports.

 “If you look at the re-declarations of the S.O.E, all ships are very restricted and that’s what the ports are operating on,” he said.

S.O.E orders on boats and ships requires that:

All boats and ships or yachts are prohibited access except:

 (a) for trade and petroleum; and

 (b) fishing boats approved for offloading, refueling and the restock of necessary supplies only;

 (c) any other category of ships, boats and yachts for offloading, refueling and the restock of necessary supplies only.

 (4)  For fishing boats under (3)(b) the following apply:

 (a) a maximum of 2 boats may dock in a day; and

 (b) medical and quarantine requirements are to be complied with;

 (c) no crew member is to leave the boat;

 (d) boat schedules must be submitted to the Samoa Ports Authority (SPA); Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF); Ministry of Police and Prisons Services (MOPPS) and the Ministry of Health (MOH); and

(e) the date of departure from the last port, or the exchange of any crew members whilst at sea, must not be less than 28 days, before arrival at Apia wharf; and notification of arrival date must be received by the relevant authorities (MAF and SPA) 5 days prior; and there shall be no exchange of crew members whilst as sea.

During a recent interview, Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi said the Government is monitoring the fishing ports very closely.

"We should be monitoring these vessels when they are out at sea and when they come in,” he said. “We need to test, trace, track, ensure that the disease is not entering into these communities through these fishing vessels and the fishermen on board.”

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