10 Dec 2003

American Samoan politician not happy with apology for New Zealand boat's unscheduled stop at Swains

4:51 pm on 10 December 2003

The Swains Island representative in the American Samoa Legislature, Wallace Thompson, says an apology by the New Zealand government over the illegal berthing of a yacht is unacceptable.

The vessel, RSV Evohe, had been chartered by the Apia based South Pacific Regional Environment Programme, or SPREP.

Last month, while enroute from Tokelau to Apia, it stopped off at Swains Island for four hours, but did not get proper clearance.

Mr Thompson is concerned at the extent of New Zealand's involvement, given it was a New Zealand yacht, captained by a New Zealander.

"We have to get sailing clearances and authorisations before we can come into any of your islands there. Its mandated in international law. I think the whole problem is not so much the charter, but the master and the representative on board that vessel. These are the people that need to be questioned and asked as to what made them assume they could land on Swains Island. That's my argument"

Mr Thompson says he believes the New Zealand apology is just an excuse on the master's part, and is unacceptable.

He says he was concerned that people were put at risk because the yacht had come from Tokelau which was experiencing a measles epidemic.

Mr Thompson says the yacht has already returned to New Zealand, but he says US authorities are still to decide whether the matter will go to an international court.