Minister Wong has unveiled plans to introduce rigorous monitoring and testing procedures to detect hazardous materials in PNG's water. To fund this initiative, Papua New Guinea will request financial assistance from the Government of Japan. Additionally, the Minister emphasized the need for stricter regulations governing the discharge of ship ballast water.
"With the release of wastewater from Fukushima, it is now imperative that all countries and global agencies independently monitor water quality," Minister Wong asserted.
He added, "While we trust the briefings and data provided by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, we are taking further steps to ensure the safety of our sovereign waters. We will commission independent monitoring in PNG waters, overseen by an accredited private sector company, with associated costs to be reimbursed by Japan."
Minister Wong expressed immediate concerns about the discharge of ship ballast water from Japan, which could reach PNG's waterways within days. Papua New Guinea currently has legislation in place, the Marine Pollution (Ballast Water Control) Act 2013, to prevent illegal ballast discharges. However, these laws do not address the issue of radioactive wastewater.
"While our existing laws are designed to prevent the entry of harmful organisms and pathogens into PNG waters, they do not consider radioactive materials. Working closely with the Minister for Transport, the National Maritime Safety Authority, and the National Fisheries Authority, we will enhance existing measures and specifically amend legislation to address radioactive ballast water,” Minister Wong explained.
Drawing inspiration from the Republic of Korea, which has enforced stringent regulations on vessels taking on ballast water in Japanese ports, Minister Wong announced plans to implement similar measures in PNG.
He noted, "Korea has set a precedent by imposing strict regulations on vessels arriving from specific Japanese ports. These regulations include mandatory testing for radioactivity in ballast water and thorough documentation inspections. We agree with Korea that measures must be tightened and enforced to protect our waters. Papua New Guinea calls for cooperation among all maritime nations to establish common regulations."
Minister Wong concluded by emphasizing the importance of collective action to secure the safety of Pacific waters: "Our waterways are vital to the livelihoods of our Pacific communities, and it is our collective responsibility to work towards a safer future for our children."
The new Korean regulations apply to vessels that take on ballast water from Japanese ports in Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Ibaragi Prefecture, and Chiba Prefecture on Japan's eastern coast.