6 Jan 2006

PNG says ship sale holding up release of 60 Filipino fishermen

10:23 am on 6 January 2006

Papua New Guinea is still holding more than 60 Filipinos arrested more than three weeks ago for fishing illegally off the north coast of PNG's main island.

The Philippines' Embassy in Port Moresby has called for the immediate release of the men, after the captains of the two boats were fined about US$26,000 each.

The ships were confiscated and are being sold by tender in the port of Vanimo.

As the acting director of the PNG fisheries authority, John Kasu, explains, this process is holding up the release of the crews.

"We're actually working on, to expedite that process, so that we run through the tender process and basically get these boats I mean out, we're actually looking at about a week or two, to get this process done, yeah."

John Kasu says the crews were apprehended by PNG patrol boats and pleaded guilty to charges of illegal fishing.

A report from the Philippines says both vessels were owned by a tuna fishing company based in the city of General Santos on the island of Mindanao, and both ships had been flying Indonesian flags.