PNG Ports: Pandemic or no pandemic, pilots still deliver

PNG Ports Corporation Limited (PNG Ports) is reputable and provides reliable pilotage services in the country with pilots who are properly trained and certified.  

This was proven upon the enactment of the first State of Emergency (SOE) where despite heightened restrictions, PNG Ports undertook crucial measures to ensure that the seaports remained open. 

Except for the two ports in the Autonomous Region of Bougainville (AROB), pilots are stationed at all ports owned and operated by PNG Ports and effectively conduct pilotage duties ensuring that goods continue to reach the people. 

Under a non-contact arrangement, PNG Ports’ Pilotage team handled a total of 90 LNG tankers and around 2900 vessel movements at its network of ports since the SOE. 

PNG Ports has also taken steps to ensure that the seaports, which are the lifeline of the nation, continue to remain open, given the current spike in COVID-19 infections in Port Moresby. 

Managing Director of PNG Ports, Fego Kiniafa, said the efficient pilotage services provided by PNG Ports under the new COVID-19 response operating procedures, proved that PNG Ports would always be the leader in this line of business. 

“Our pilotage manpower was put to the test since the COVID-19 pandemic began but we managed to position our pilots in our ports of operation ensuring the protection of our infrastructure and marine environment,” Mr Kiniafa said. 

“We are the only pilotage service provider that has the capacity to provide pilotage services during the pandemic.  Except for the two in AROB, our pilots were on call seven days, 24 hours with enough pilots at all 13 ports.  As possible points of entry for the coronavirus, seaports are high risk zones, so we upgraded our service to fit the requirements around the restrictions and the ‘new normal’.” 

“PNG Ports has also taken steps to increase its fleet and manpower to meet the increasing demand brought on as a result of the changing times, so whether during or after the pandemic, PNG Ports is prepared to deliver,” he said. 

As part of the emergency response plan during the pandemic, PNG Ports upped its game by introducing a no-contact arrangement where ships were cleared at anchorage out at sea before they entered the port area.  

Chief Pilot, Captain Joji Takape, said health and quarantine officers travel out to sea where the incoming vessels are anchored but do not get on the ship, as per the SOE Controller’s directives, and there is no crew exchanges whether from shore to ship or ship to shore. 

He said marine pilots are given the sole mandate to board the foreign vessels but are strictly required to be in full personal protective equipment and abide by the no-contact social distancing protocol.

 “PNG Ports has been providing safe and efficient pilotage services for decades with nil major accidents, nil spillages and other incidents so far, and to date, we have handled more than 1000 Panamax and Aframax size Tankers (large vessels) including more than 600 LNG tankers,” Captain Joji said.

All international vessels are cleared at anchorage at the designated pilot boarding areas before pilot’s board the vessels and bring them alongside to berth for unloading and loading cargo.  

It is mandatory that pilots bring the vessels in and out, and not the ship captains, as the marine pilots are more knowledgeable on local waters and can maneuver the ships through the congested waters at the ports. 

 PNG Ports has invested heavily in equipping its pilots with additional training and currently use top of the range tools and real time technology to ensure fast service and turnaround times for the vessels.