The chiefs and people of Moso Island have asked the Government, through Efate Rural Member of Parliament, Gillion William to remove the beached Super Yacht- Blue Gold, on their reef.
MP William conveyed the people’s concern during the time allocated for written questions in Parliament, yesterday afternoon. He raised the concern, through a written question directed to Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities Jotham Napat, in accordance with the Standing Orders of Parliament, 32(1).
“The Blue Gold has been lying on the reef near Sunae village on Moso, wrecked on the reef by Cyclone Pam in March 2015,” said MP William.
“Over two years has passed. It is a hazard, causing damage to the reef and the environment. It also poses a potential threat to the Havannah Harbour.
“The chiefs of Sunae and Moso have written to the Government. They want to know when the government will remove the yacht.
“But to date, there is no positive response from the government, to their queries.
“They are under the impression that government officers are scared to deal with the issue.
“Can the minister explain why the super yacht is still on the reef and give a time frame, which the people can expect to see the removal of the yacht?”
In response, Minister Napat said the owner of Blue Gold, had been arrested in Switzerland, brought to Netherlands for trial and was convicted on bankruptcy fraud.
“This vessel was registered under the Vanuatu Maritime Authority on April 17, 2005 and expired on April 16, 2010,” he explained.
“It was registered for the second time, on May 9, 2011 by the Department of Ports and Marine.
“Again, this expired on May 8, 2016.”
The minister said the Department of Ports and Harbour, has been working on this case.
“They had several meetings with the landowners and council of chiefs, which they attempted to address the issue,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the current legislation has some loopholes. These gaps made it very difficult to address situations like this, especially when it comes to wreckage.”
He drew the attention of the parliamentarians to the Ports Act [CAP 26], which deals with obstructions to be removed.
“In any event which involves a wreckage, the act does not have clear provisions for the Department of Ports and Harbour to address the issue.
“According to the current Act, this is the sole responsibility of the owner of the vessel.
“There are restrictions to how the government can address this issue.
“There are many wreckages around, particularly near Iririki.
“I want to reassure this House that with the restrictions in the Ports Act [CAP 26], the Ministry of Infrastructure is now looking at how to address this issue.
“This means there will be several amendments to the Shipping Act [CAP 53], to include provisions to address wreckages.
“Hopefully, we can bring these amendments forward this year so we don’t encounter the same problems in the future.”
Minister Napat mentioned that it appeared the owner of Blue Gold has given certain rights to some people in north Efate; and they chased the Ports and Harbour officers who attempted to work on this issue.
“This makes it very difficult,” he said.
“Not only that, they have also tried to engage another company to salvage the vessel, but this is pending, as the company is waiting to be paid.
“The responsibility does not lie with the government, it lies solely on the owner of the vessel. We are working on this.
“One recommendation is for an amendment under the Shipping Act [CAP 53], which will give certain powers to the regulator.
“For instance, it can issue a deadline of one month to shipowners to remove the vessel, if not then we can confiscate and sell the vessel.”
The Minister is hopeful the amendments will be advanced in Parliament this year, as this issue is also a long time concern for Iririki over the years.
Only the amendments can address the ongoing problems with wreckages, once and for all.