I have been coming to PNG since 1999 and the place and people here have a special place in my hearth. I go back a long time with many people in NFA (National Fisheries Authority) and I see many of them as extended family, I know their family, they know mine, I been to their house, they have been to mine.
I think that those human connections are the key part of the job, since they mean trust. So I was quite happy to be invited to be part of a mission with my former colleagues in FAO to deal with a topic that is an integral part of my CDS and MCS work: Port State Measures Agreement.
The PSMA needs to approached with care, not because there is anything wrong with its principles (all the opposite), but because developing countries should move progressively towards it as not to “choke” with all the requirements and then go backwards with the steps done.
Using another analogy: PSM is a tool… and you need to know how to use the tool before trying to fix a car with it after taking from the box.
And is not an easy task, legislation need to be updated, logistics of vessels arrival, notifications, intelligence work prior use of port authorization, inspection capacity and enough people to do it, communication, reporting capacity and many more issues.
Also, you need to draw some lines on the sand, one can interpret it that the use of, and access to, ports should be denied irrespective of the gravity of the illegal activity… and while this is a potent tool to force change, has implications for developing states particularly if the measures are not taking regionally, as the boats can travel to another nearby state and have it “easier” there.
There are considerations when countries like here in the pacific have overlapping requirements as part of the WCPFC and their membership with FFA and PNA.
The reporting alone can be quite complex, as there are quite a few parts to please.
Some worry that it can be felt that small states are “subsidising” the poor flag state performance of most DWFN. Most vessels transhipping and unloading in the region are not flagged here, so it kinds of become the “obligation” of the port state to “police” them. And while one could argue that is in the coastal/port states interests to do so, this still is huge stretch for many fisheries administrations, plus the basic issue that for example Philippines, Taiwan, Korea, etc. should be taking care of their vessels and not PNG or the Solomons… they have a job to do, but the ultimate responsibility is in the flag state… and we all know how “responsible” they are.
Also, any measure taken by individual countries may loose strength if is not reflected by regional neighbours, and when you have a very different variety of resourcing and capacities (beyond political wills), the scenario can become really complex, even if all good intentions are there.
So yes, this are only some of the considerations I’ll need to take care, beyond the capacity building, the operational considerations and the IT structure behind all these.
Yet PNG has faced many challenges before and it keeps dealing with them with principle and pride, so I’m very much looking forwards to be involved with them once more