Communication key to preventing African Trader repeat – officials


16-July-2004

The African Trader, which docked in Port Victoria on Sunday after experiencing engine troubles, drew concern from environmental officials on Tuesday, after it was discovered the cargo the ship carried – large wooden logs – contained live insects that could have posed a threat to the local environment.

Danny Poiret, the director for environmental health, told reporters on Thursday, at a press conference at the Ministry of Health that more communication between stakeholders will be needed to prevent similar instances in the future.

“There has to be something put in place,” he said, noting that talks at the principal secretary level are expected that would hopefully result in a protocol that would disallow such ships from entering into the port.

Mr Poiret added that the Food and Agriculture Organisation and other agencies are actually working on a new draft of International Health Regulations to be presented to various countries next year, including Seychelles. From there, he said, Seychelles’ own quarantine measures could also be amended to include scenarios similar to that of the African Trader incident.

Environment principal secretary Rolph Payet told Nation on Thursday evening that a high-level meeting will be held next week to discuss and analyse the situation. Mr Payet said that ways to increase coordination between all parties, including the port, will be discussed at the meeting, as well as tactical measures that could be put in place for an early warning system.

“The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources maintains its position that there needs to be better communication and coordination from all parties concerned,” he said.

“We’re not blaming anybody – we’re all responsible, including environment.”

Captain Wilton Ernesta, the director general for Port and Marine Services, wrote in a letter addressed to Nation on Wednesday that the port wasn’t involved in the clearing of ships – that this was the responsibility of environmental health officials.

Central to the problem, however, is that there appears to be no mechanism yet in which environmental checks can be made if a quarantine officer from environmental health – which is the only authorised official that can board vessels as a safety precaution – issues a free practique that states the ship poses no danger to public health.

Mr Poiret said that environmental health officers are trained in breadth to take into account public health issues at ports of entry like Port Victoria and the airport. But these mainly involve human diseases and rodent or mosquito infestations, not environmental concerns related to conservation.

Such issues are expected to be addressed at the meeting next week.

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