Friday, January 17, 2014

Ping Da 7 situation in Pohpei: vessel crew being cared for as the ordeal drags

FSMIS (January 17, 2014): Key officials from the Federated States of Micronesia National Government having responsibilities with regards the Joint FSM- Pohnpei State Taskforce on the aground Ping Da 7 vessel held a meeting this afternoon at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Chaired be Secretary Francis Itimai, Department of Transportation Communication and Infrastructure (TC&I), the meeting brought together Secretary April Dawn Skilling, Department of Justice, Secretary Lorin Robert, Department of Foreign Affairs, two ranking officers of the FSM National Police, an "intern" at the Department of Justice, an official from the Department of Resources and Development, Department of TC&I Assistant Secretary of Transportation Mr. Leo Lokopwe, and the FSM Public Information Officer. The National Government officials were later joined by Mr. Judah Johnny, the Pohnpei State Attorney General.

The meeting enabled the sharing of information and updates on separate assignments by the offices in the overall effort to effectuate the removal of the vessel off the reef and properly undertake necessary humanitarian and other actions as may be dictated by law or otherwise.

Meanwhile, the vessel continues to sit on the reef with the sixteen crew on-board, fuel in the main hull, and other chemical and solid waste materials.

Secretary Skilling shared a print translation of a January 10 email message response from Jianghai, the ship master. She explained that so far the ship owner is only considering home-return for the crew without any real commitment to vessel salvage liabilities and other issues.

Reports were also made as far as humanitarian assistance undertaken by the FSM-based International Office of Migration (IOM) personnel, with transport assistance from the FSM Maritime Police, in terms of food supply to the crew in response to request made by the FSM Secretary of Justice. The vessel crew's food and water supply will be a concern to be shouldered to the extent they are held up and not returned home.

The officials generally recognized the need to expedite the repatriation of any of the crew members, all of whom have expressed desire to go back home.

A January 16 report on recent contacts made with the China Embassy in Pohnpei regarding the current care and possible repatriation of the crew was discussed. Attorney General Johnny shared some information on what his office had been able to do together with other State offices with roles in this ordeal.

Secretary Itimai said the  joint-taskforce will meet at 9:30 tomorrow morning at the FSM Maritime Wing Office to progress ongoing tasks more firmly in devising a vessel salvage plan, addressing related care duties for the crew, and other concerns.

The biggest challenge in all of the struggle is to ensure the unfortunate vessel does not turn into a grave environmental and economic nightmare for Pohnpei State and the FSM given the fuel in its belly, its location and the apparent lack of commitment by its owner.

Secretary Itimai, as the receiver of the vessel by National law, may have reached a point where a determination must now be made whether or not the owner has essentially abandoned his responsibility over the vessel and its crews, given the lack of success in getting definitive sign of commitment to any of the areas of concerns in the entire situation.

More update to come....

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