18 Dec 2003

New Zealand responds to futher inquiries over Swains Island incident

11:08 am on 18 December 2003

The New Zealand government has replied to inquiries from American Samoan Congressman, Faleomavaega Eni Hunkin, about the illegal berthing of a New Zealand-based vessel on American Samoa's Swains Island last month.

A letter from the New Zealand embassy in Washington says the vessel was chartered by the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme and was on a trip solely on SPREP business.

It makes clear that the RSV Evohe was not on New Zealand government business or that of the Tokelau authorities and is not government owned.

The letter says it is the New Zealand government's understanding that the vessel's crew thought they had clearance to anchor off Swains Island, and it appeared to those on board that the medical and fuel supplies they had brought were much appreciated by the Swain Islanders.

The letter also notes that there appeared to have been a communications breakdown between the vessel, Swains Island and the harbour master at Pago Pago.