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Bizarre Story in Port Vila, Vanuatu

By doina — last modified Jan 15, 2007 12:46 PM

Published: 2007-01-15 12:46:31
Countries: Vanuatu

M/V Retriever 1, a dive support vessel for a salvage operation (registered in Panama - reportedly Singapore owners) anchored in the quarantine area last week in Port Vila and cleared in. That afternoon, we heard yelling ... looked like the captain chewing one of the crew. Next morning, we found a snorkeler resting in our dinghy behind the boat. We invited her aboard and she told us she was on vacation on that vessel. She is Australian (British born) and does free diving (variable weights). We chatted with her and by curiosity asked her about the vessel. She said they came from Fiji (where they only stayed 2 days) and she was disappointed not to have been able to free dive there! We told her to try to dive the famous wreck, the Coolidge, in Santo. Other than that we didn't learn anything as to what project they are working on.

That afternoon, a flurry of maritime police, immigration authorities, in numbers this time, boarded the support vessel again full of questions .. and the whole crew goes to jail!!!

According to the local newspaper, when the ship arrived from Fiji(?) it slowed down on the other side of the island and a dinghy with 3 people was lowered into the sea and approached the coast. One white guy, jumped into the water in swimsuit with clothes in a plastic bag and swam ashore. There he calmly walked thru the resort and disappeared on the island. Someone reported the fact to the police ... but the police having no car at the time couldn't send someone right away! By the time they got there the man had vanished! Highly illegal as a ship (like any plane landing) has to be visited by Health, Customs & Immigration first! Who is that clandestine passenger?

The Fiji authorities when contacted were very surprised to hear the vessel was here as they thought it was in Suva! Rumors runs that it is some famous wanted individual?!? The vessel was searched and weapons (non-declared when the ship cleared in) were confiscated. The ship is now tied to the government dock, 4 crew in jail for non-cooperation, the others (cook, engineers) on the vessel but without passports and the lady in a hotel since she seems innocent of anything happening! It should take from 1 to 4 weeks to clear the whole story and for lawyers to get the crew out of jail.

Who thought cruising life was uneventful in Port Vila :)

Luc Callebaut, Noonsite Editor currently in Port Vila

Reports that the vessel was smuggling international conman Peter Foster out of Fiji have not been confirmed.