Monday 4 September 2023
Following the beginning of the discharge of wastewater from Japan’s Fukushima power station, Minister for Fisheries and Marine Resources, Hon. Jelta Wong, has highlighted additional measures to ensure the safety of PNG’s sovereign waters.
Minister Wong has foreshadowed the introduction of monitoring and testing for hazardous material in PNG’s water with funding to be requested from the Government of Japan, and the need for more stringent ship ballast water discharge regulations.
“The fact is that the release of the wastewater has begun, and now it is incumbent upon all countries and global agencies to stringently and independently monitor water quality,” Minister Wong said.
“Our Government has received briefings and data from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, and at this point we place our confidence in this information, but our trust must not be taken for granted.
“I will be commissioning truly independent monitoring and testing in PNG sovereign waters, that will be overseen by an accredited private sector company and seek associated costs to be reimbursed by the Government of Japan.”
The Minister said a more immediate concern is the discharge of ship ballast water from Japan, for which he said collective policy action is required from all maritime countries around the world.
“While the discharged wastewater can take some time to move around the oceans, ship ballast water could be in our waterways within a matter of days.
“Papua New Guinea has laws in place, through the Marine Pollution (Ballast Water Control) Act 2013, that prevents illegal ballast discharges, but additional measures are required as this relates to radioactive wastewater.
“The Marine Pollution Act was designed to prevent harmful aquatic organisms and pathogens entering PNG waters from ship ballast, but there is no reference to radioactive material in the legislation.
“In consultation with the Minister for Transport, through the National Maritime Safety Authority and the National Fisheries Authority, we will reinforce existing measures and have the legislation amended specifically relating to radioactive ballast water.”
Minister Wong said the Republic of Korea has set an example with regulations to prevent the release of radioactive ballast water into their waters from vessels travelling from Japanese ports.
“Since the Fukushima wastewater discharge began, any vessels entering Korean ports after up taking ballast water in any of six identified Japanese ports are subject to strict regulation enforcement. This includes providing samples of ballast water to test for radioactivity, and the rigorous inspection of documentation of ballast water being carried.
“The International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships’ Ballast Water is clear on requirements for the safe exchange of ballast water, but we are in agreement with the Korean Government that measures must be tightened and enforced.
“Papua New Guinea will implement similar measures to what we have seen enacted in Korea in relation to the release of ballast water, and we call for co-operation between all maritime countries to implement common regulations.
“Our waterways are the lifeblood of our people in the Pacific, and we must all work together for a safer future for our children.”
The new Korean regulations apply to vessels that uptake ballast water from the Japanese ports of Aomori Prefecture, Iwate Prefecture, Fukushima Prefecture, Miyagi Prefecture, Ibaragi Prefecture, Chiba Prefecture in the eastern coast of Japan.