10 Feb 2012

PNG police in talks with militants blocking ships in Buka

8:09 am on 10 February 2012

Police in the autonomous Papua New Guinea region of Bougainville say they're trying to ensure that a protest over the Rabaul Queen ferry disaster doesn't get out of hand.

More than 50 armed ex-militants are occupying three vessels in Buka harbour that belong to the Rabaul Shipping Company which operated the ship that sank last week off Morobe.

About 100 people are believed to have drowned - many of them students from Bougainville returning to their university studies on the mainland.

Police spokesperson Graham Binin says they are limited in what they can do but they've asked the ex-militants not to damage the vessels during what he says is a protest action.

"I think it is a natural expression of anger about so many lives lost during the shipping mishap, so I think they just want to make their claims to the company and that sort of thing, but as I said before police are keeping an eye on things so that they don't get out of hand."