Samoa accepted a request from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Research vessel, Oscar Elton Sette, to dispose refuse that had collected on the boat after several weeks at sea.
This was after the Quarantine Section of the American Samoa Department of Agriculture informed the vessel that under local laws they cannot discharge their wastes here.
Elisapeta Sualevai, head of the DOA Quarantine confirmed to KHJ News that they did not accept the US research vessel’s request to dump their refuse while in port last month.
She cited statutory provisions as the basis for their decision.
Section 24.0335 titled, Refuse disposal by vessels and aircraft states:
Vessels and aircraft entering American Samoa from foreign ports are prohibited from dumping garbage, trash and other refuse into the harbors and protected wasters of the islands and from putting such garbage ashore for disposition except under the following conditions:
The presence of an agricultural quarantine inspector to supervise the loading and unloading of any and all garbage, trash and other refuse containers, fumigation of commodities and certification of commodities to export.
It also states: If adequately screened and protected incinerators are available ashore, garbage and trash from vessels entering from foreign ports may be handed for destruction by burning under the supervision of agricultural quarantine inspectors or other appropriate port authorities; otherwise, garbage and trash shall be accumulated aboard the vessel in covered containers for the duration of the stay of the vessel, and subsequently dumped at sea upon resumption of the voyage.
The Oscal Elton Sette is a US research vessel and it traveled here from Hawaii, where it’s based.
According to the head of the DOA Quarantine, all vessels from outside the territory, including those from Hawaii or the US mainland are labeled foreign and as such their refuse cannot be accepted here.
She pointed out that the territory adoesn’t have an incinerator where refuse/waste from vessels can be burned.
Sualevai said this has been a long standing policy of the Quarantine Divison and it’s not a new policy.
After the vessel’s request for dumping of tis waste load in this US territory was rejected, it made a request to Samoa, which went right up to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and he accepted.
Leilua Mase Akapo of the NOAA Weather Office in Tafuna says NOAA is appreciative of Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele’s quick and positive response to the request.
He said the vessel had been at sea for about a month and needed to discharge its waste.
It never expected to be refused by American Samoa.
The NOAA vessel is doing joint research with Samoa and American Samoa on fish species for which there’s little information available. .
As soon as the vessel docked in Apia, a container of waste was taken ashore and discharged of.
Mase says he is trying to get an interpretation of the statute and whether a US government research vessel fits in the category of foreign vessel as the Quarantine Division of Agriculture maintains.
He has requested the Attorney General’s Office, through Deputy AG Mitzie Jessop Taase for a legal interpretation on the issue.
KHJ News sought comments from the administration concerning the incident with the refuse.
The Governor’s Executive Assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira said the issue was brought to his attention yesterday.
He said the information given him is that the legal issues are being determined especially on classifying US Vessels in the same category as foreign vessels with regard to waste disposal.
Iulogologo says at this juncture, it would be premature to provide comment until all the issues connected with this matter have been identified.
He wasn’t sure if the governor has been made aware of the situation but he said it will help the governor render a decision if all the relevant facts are identified and presented to him.
Iulogologo said appropriate action will be taken and made known when the decision is made based on prevailing legal issues.