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Injured fisherman in lockdown limbo

An injured fisherman is in serious danger of losing his hand after neither the Government in Samoa, nor the administration in American Samoa, have allowed him ashore for urgent medical treatment.

The man aboard a Taiwanese longline vessel injured his hand with a fishing hook last month, a Samoa Observer investigation found.

The wound has since grown severely infected.

But as his condition grows more dire neither Government has granted the man permission to come ashore, since the alarm was first raised with Samoan health authorities on Friday.

The vessel, Man Fu Tsai No.88, arrived in Apia on February 27; it alerted the Ministry of Health to the man’s grave need for treatment but did not receive permission to berth. The crew instead set sail for American Samoa.

The injured man finds himself stranded between borders that have been firmly closed to stop the possible entry of the coronavirus.

The Samoa Observer understands the man was already injured before the vessel arrived in Apia, and a notice of the situation was sent to the Ministry of Health.

Having been out at sea since last year, the vessel has not berthed in any other port since leaving Apia.

It was intending to berth to resupply the ship and unload its catch before the emergency orders were put in place.

The 14-person crew is rapidly running out of medical supplies, and the man’s wound has become severely infected.

Under Samoa’s state of emergency orders, only trade, petrol and fishing vessels are currently allowed to dock in Apia Wharf. The Ministry of Health is required to grant medical clearance of all crew members where necessary.

In American Samoa, Talanei reports the vessel has been waiting more than 30 kilometres away from the harbor waiting for permission to dock, and on Wednesday afternoon the crew learned their mate would not be granted entry.

On Tuesday, the territory’s Department of Public Health Director, Motusa Tuileama Nua, said only the Governor can decide if to let the vessel in. But he added that “they would not trouble the Governor with the matter.”

They are now left with no choice but to return again to Samoa hoping for a change of heart.

The vessel owners had contacted American Samoan businessman Herman Popeye Thomsen to help get the injured crew member some treatment.

He told Talanei that the vessel travel history and supporting documents were provided, and that government officials were trying to get clearance for either the fisherman to disembark or for another vessel to go out and get him.

The state of emergency protocols for Apia Wharf means absolutely no crew members are allowed to disembark onto Samoan soil.

Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Ports Authority (S.P.A.) So’oalo Kuresa So’oalo explained local crew do the task of offloading and loading cargo, and Police officers and S.P.A. security officers supervise the entire operation.

All crew are also screened by health officials at a pilot station two miles from the wharf. Only after the crew is “cleared” can the ship be emptied and then refilled.

The Ministry of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Ministry of Health and the Samoa Ports Authority have all been contacted for comment.

The Man Fu Tsai No.88 is owned by Hung Chia Lin, who is from Taiwan, and is part of Fong Chung Formosa Fishery Company (F.C.F.).

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