26 Nov 2003

Swains Island delegate to complain over illegal berthing of SPREP vessel

1:26 pm on 26 November 2003

Swains Island delegate to the American Samoa Legislature, Wallace Thompson plans to file a formal complaint with the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme over the illegal berthing of a research vessel on the island last week.

Mr Thompson, whose family owns the island of twenty residents, says the landing of New Zealand boat the MV Echo was a violation of American Samoan and International maritime law.

Chartered by SPREP, the MV Echo had been conducting an ocean survey around the Tokelau islands and was heading back to Apia when it stopped at Swains Island.

However, the vessel did not have the required permit to berth and was ordered to depart immediately by the American Samoa Harbour Master.

There were concerns that Swains Island residents could contract measles because of a recent reported outbreak in Tokelau.

According to Mr Thompson, who also plans to complain to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Samoa Ministry of Transport, there was a Tokelauan government representative onboard the vessel who made the decision to stop at Swains Island.

But the Tokelauan Affairs office says the person in question was not a government official, and the boat's berthing was a mis-understanding.