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Journalists live on board for APEC in Port Moresby

Pacific Jewel
Most journalists in Port Moresby for APEC are being accommodated aboard P&O's Pacific Jewel


ABOARD THE PACIFIC JEWEL– Quoits deck, plunge pools and sunset yoga: For security and logistical reasons, thousands of delegates and journalists attending this year’s APEC summit are being quartered on hulking cruise ships.

‘Like nothing on Earth,’ screams a slogan in huge dark lettering against their gleaming white hulls, moored off Papua New Guinea’s crime-ridden capital of Port Moresby. Indeed, few attendees can have experienced summit accommodation like it.

The 245-meter Pacific Jewel, where mainly journalists are housed, has 14 decks and berths for nearly 1,700 people, ranging from small interior cabins to spacious suites with an ocean view.

It boasts an array of restaurants and bars from the Mix Cocktail bar to the darker and jazz-filled Orient. Other entertainment includes the Marquee theatre for shows and ‘Gatsby’ and ‘Back to School’ parties.

Those who have not had their fill of high-wire summitry can try ‘walking the plank’ — being suspended by a rope 14 floors over the sea — or ‘rock climbing’ up the ship’s funnel.

Others can try their luck at the casino, with plush blue-baize blackjack tables and dozens of blinking slot machines.

Sporting memorabilia adorns the walls, from Magic Johnson’s famous 32 LA Lakers shirt to stamps featuring the legendary Australian cricketer Donald Bradman.

Summit organisers turned to the cruise ships amid a lack of sufficient facilities in Port Moresby.

“We simply do not have enough hotel rooms in Port Moresby to accommodate all delegations,” admitted Justin Tkatchenko, minister in charge of APEC, in a recent parliamentary speech.

The other concern was how to keep officials safe in Port Moresby, one of the most dangerous cities on Earth. Car-jackings have become commonplace, often carried out by the notorious raskol street gangs, and petty crime is rife.

The Economist Intelligence Unit this year ranked the city 136th out of 140 on its list of most liveable places, above only Karachi, Lagos, Dhaka and war-torn Damascus.

Security is tight both onboard and onshore, with leaders like China’s President Xi Jinping and US vice-president Mike Pence attending the summit — although Pence is staying in the northern Australian city of Cairns.

Just a kilometre from the Pacific Jewel lurk two menacing warships. Small police inflatables and jet skis patrol constantly.

Sharon Fernandes, assistant night manager aboard the Pacific Jewel, said the 650 staffers from 40 countries had to adjust from a cruise-ship mentality to essentially running a ‘flotel’ for delegates. “For the first time we are a hotel, not a ship. We need to be more broad-minded and adjust to different mentalities,” said the 31-year-old from Mumbai.

Guests said they were happy to be offshore given the logistical difficulties and safety reputation of Port Moresby.

“I’m really pleased I’m on a cruise ship because it’s safer and more convenient. It’s better to stick with everyone else because the logistics are so difficult,” said one 26-year-old Hong Kong-based reporter.

One delegate also cited convenience as a key factor compared to staying in a hotel with security restrictions: “As a delegate, it’s not a bad thing being on a cruise ship because everything is laid on here. In a hotel, you are much more restricted.”

David Jones, spokesman for Carnival Australia, which provided the ships, said the company has been running cruise ships to Papua New Guinea for several years and was an obvious choice for authorities.

“There is no way you could have this extent of accommodation shore-side, and we see this as a natural extension of our relationship with Papua New Guinea,” Jones said.


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Martin Auld

'Please can someone find out why international journalists are accommodated in one of the luxury ships....'

Because that's what they want Daniel. You seem to have the wrong idea about 'international journalists'. They are not activist campaigners.

In general, they prefer the company of their own kind, ie, the political class. They, not you, define what news is. They like comfort. They prefer press releases to investigation in the field. The sooner you understand this the quicker you can use it to mutual advantage.

Martin has a very jaundiced and largely misdirected view of these journalists. Furthermore, they did not 'want' to stay aboard ship. This is where most of them have had to stay because of a shortage of accommodation in Moresby - KJ

Harry Topham

I hope no over enthusiastic locals don't let their curiosity over take them and take their lakatois out for a stickybeak at this floating palace.

They might get a very big unpleasant surprise when the over border security guys intercept the plebs. Just a thought?

Daniel Kumbon

I have read so many social media outlets today holed up here in Wabag and seems as if most people are against the USA and Australia. Here is what I wrote in response to some of those comments…….

It seems to me that many people in PNG are too emotional and blind to see beyond the horizon.

They do not seem to have read history, understand international politics or question why the sudden Chinese generosity and influence in Pacific island nations.

I cannot understand why people seem quick to write off Australia and the USA – who are strong defenders of democratic freedom everywhere?.

Should people blame Australia and the USA for PNG’s economic woes?
Just where is this resource rich country being led to?

What thoughts will go through the minds of western or pro-western APEC member countries when they see all these Chinese decorations and fanfare in the city?

The decorations in Port Moresby right now are decorations only, meaningless to the rural masses where people die every day for lack
of basic medicines.

That six lane boulevard is a street to nowhere but into the big hole in Waigani. Vendors will be lining this street soon with buai, loose cigarettes etc to make ends meet in the city.

Please can someone find out why international journalists are accommodated in one of the luxury ships anchored off-shore?

Martin Auld

Floating hotel worked well in Timor, and a good place to kick back after a hard day's work bugging government offices. I imagine the Pacific Jewel will be one of the few places in town not heavily fogged for mosquitoes.

Journalists are mostly tame and don't move far from the suits they hang out with, so long as they've got a floating business center to rewrite press releases.

If O'Neill is as fiendishly clever as most contributors here believe him to be, he'll have trained a cadre of local stringers and fixers, preferably of the long-haired interpreter variety and happy to hang around for floating disco after sundowners.

If they're not fussed when the star-studded international media refuse to credit them with a joint byline after doing all the legwork and research, so much the better.

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