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Fair implementation of Small Craft Act

10 out of the 15 Maritime Provinces have commenced implementing the Small Craft Act, having established Small Craft Boards with several now actively engaged in the registration and enforcement of the Act.

However, some of the 10 provinces are still yet to move to a position where full implementation is possible, primarily due to financial and capacity reasons. These provinces are being actively assisted by National Government through the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) to get to the position of full implementation.

This was the remark made by Authority’s General Manager/CEO, Paul Unas when responding to queries regarding the implementation of the Act by the respective Maritime Provinces.

NMSA has provided, in 14 provinces, training, administrative support, office refurbishment, IT, safety equipment, and community awareness activities. Since the Act was gazetted over 600 small craft officials and police have been trained in administering and enforcing the Act. Over 20 community awareness sessions have been conducted and 10,000 small craft safety brochures, posters and booklets distributed.  Registration and enforcement activities are underway in all three maritime regions.  Recently an operator has been convicted of a serious Small Craft Act offence and was imprisoned for 5 years.

Mr Unas said: “Implementation of the Small Craft Act is correctly a provincial responsibility as stated by the Minister. The Maritime Provinces have that responsibility under law and for practical purposes. NMSA has a field presence in only six locations outside Port Moresby and therefore is not in a position to implement and enforce the Small Craft Act nationally.”

He said each maritime province has different circumstances and needs that require local solutions. Therefore, it is appropriate and right that it is the Maritime Provinces that tailor maritime safety and regulation solutions that are best suited for their communities and waters.

The Small Craft Act Construction Standards are in fact in force and apply to all small craft regardless of where the craft are built -in PNG or overseas. NMSA has been actively involved in the testing of small craft for compliance with the standards. NMSA can advise that the common 23 foot craft referred to in your editorial has been modified to improve flotation and in testing by NMSA, significantly exceeded the required flotation standard.

Although the Small Craft Act does not require safety equipment to be included in the sale of small craft, the main supplier has been voluntarily providing free equipment with each sale. To expand the use of safety equipment in small craft, NMSA has been procuring and distributing free life jackets and is currently procuring marine safety kits for free distribution to registered small craft operators.

Mr Unas said some of the criticisms made publicly in the media may be justified for the four provinces that are yet to implement the Act, Madang, Central, Gulf and Western as well as the National Capital District, which has singly refused all offers of assistance or to even engage with NMSA.

He said: “However, no matter what laws and standards are put in place, people will continue to be lost at sea if dinghies continue to be overloaded, run out of fuel and travel in bad weather. The bad decisions that directly cause loss of life at sea are not made by remote government officials, but by the operators of the dinghies and the passengers who decide to travel with them.”

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