BY JENNIFER KUSAPA
A VESSEL ‘suspiciously’ off-loading cargo at a log-pond at Alligator Creek, east of Honiara, last Thursday was earlier cleared by Customs at Noro International Port.
That’s according to Comptroller of Customs and Excise, Jim Sutton.
Gallego Logging Company owns the log-pond and the vessel. It’s not clear whether the entire cargo belongs to them.
The decision to off-load the cargo at a log-pond was widely criticised, with many saying the action has put the country at greater security risks.
Sutton told Island Sun yesterday the covid-19 shipping committee gave the permission for the vessel to be cleared at Noro.
“They’ve paid all monies that are due to the Government,” the Customs boss explained.
He said the vessel then obtained permission to discharge its cargo at Bahomia sufferance port (Alligator log-pond).
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, McKinnie Dentana on Sunday told a radio talk-back show his officers, police, immigration and quarantine were on site during off-loading.
Police Commissioner Mostyn Mangau said when they were alerted to the off-loading, his officers visited the site and saw Customs officers there.
But one important division, Biosecurity, was not there.
Director of Biosecurity Francis Tsatsia told Island Sun they were not informed of the off-loading so none of his officers were there.
It’s understood among the cargoes were machines.
“Sadly, the information where the vessel will be discharging the machine was not relayed to Biosecurity.
“Hence, I believe no Biosecurity officer was there to do the inspection.
“We are now following the reports to find out where the machines are.”
Meanwhile, Sutton said in light of this incident, they will now review their processes.
“Effective immediately all such authorisations will now be assessed and issued in Honiara by a senior shipping officer,” Sutton said.
“At the moment Customs are looking into the whole sufferance wharves operations.
“There are several hundred in the country but some are now inactive.
“Under the Customs Act, Customs is the only authority to approve sufferance wharves.
“We also authorise importation and discharge of cargo and stipulated where that cargo is to be discharged.
“Customs also have full control over all vessels, aircraft and their cargoes arriving from overseas or departing to leave Solomon Islands.”