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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

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Megayacht Phocea’s Malta Registration ‘Unclear’
Controversial vessel won’t depart Vanuatu as soon as expected

By Ricky Binihi

PORT VILA, Vanuatu (Vanuatu Daily Post, Jan. 21, 2013) – Reliable Vanuatu boarder experts have dismissed speculation that mega vessel Phocea which created much havoc after its illegal arrival in Port Vila last year will leave the country.

Vanuatu has received "unclear" reports that the sailing boat, reportedly owned by businessman Pascal Saken is registered in Malta in the Mediterranean Sea.

"The information supplied has not met the Vanuatu requirement to qualify for rectifying the boat’s defects and the ship will not leave the country as soon as many people had expected," a reliable source told the Daily Post.

Eye witnesses have confirmed now that the Prime Minister Sato Kilman said the Phocea could be released from the country because there was no case pending before the Courts there is more lightings in the ship during the nights.

And there was even speculation Phocea has refilled and was supposed to set sail this week.

But Daily Post sources said despite the assurances from the Prime Minister’s Office the ship might still not leave the country because it failed to adhere to the compliance information regarding its registration in Malta.

All the countries that are signatory to international maritime and boarder control conventions know that the Phocea has defects that require rectification. Now that Phocea is in Vanuatu and what will be their impression on Vanuatu if the Phocea is released but its "papers are not in order", the sources said.

The Phocea was at the epicenter of alleged illegal activities when it first came to Vanuatu on July 18 last year but was never boarded by Customs, Police, Quarantine and Ports and Harbor officials until July 22.

Three government ministers and an MP reportedly boarded the ship before it was cleared but only two current government ministers will appear on charges of boarding a foreign vessel that has not been cleared by local authorities.

When it first arrived the Vanuatu Police alleged that the boat was smuggling guns and trafficking drugs and Police who boarded the ship found a tiny specimen of what could be cocaine.

But the Police could never substantiate their claims in Court except get members of the Phocea crew fined in Court for illegally entering Vanuatu.

The Daily Post understands that local authorities have discovered that Phocea had been registered in Luxembourg, France, Vanuatu and Malta when legally the ship must be registered one country alone.

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