Alert issued for Ghost containers
The National [ November 16, 2006 ]
By PETER KORUGL
ALL ports in Papua New Guinea have been placed on full alert following the disappearance of two containers packed with parts of the controversial Swamp Ghost – the World War II plane moved from Oro province to Lae recently. Papua New Guinea Customs issued the alert yesterday when it was discovered that two large containers filled with parts of the bomber went missing last Tuesday night from a Lae wharf.
The whereabouts of the containers are not known at this stage but PNG Customs believe that people, who were trying to move the old B-7E Flying Fortress out of PNG, were behind the disappearance of the two containers. “The containers have not left Lae. They are still here but we believe that the people behind this are moving the containers out of Lae to one of the smaller ports in the country so that they can easily take it out of PNG,” a highly placed source in PNG Customs said.
A tip-off led The National to the wharf, where the old bomber was kept, only to discover that the plane had been dismantled and packed into two six-foot containers. Eye witnesses said the war relic was dismantled last weekend and packed into six containers. Four of the containers are still at the wharf yesterday. PNG Customs did not clear Aero Archeology, based in Pennsylvania in the United States or its agents to export the old bomber out of the country.
The action by Customs followed a directive from the Papua New Guinea National Museum and Art Gallery (NMAG) that the plane must not leave PNG because the legality of its sale and other related issues was not yet dealt with by the courts.
“The Swamp Ghost should not be dismantled and have its parts packed in shipping containers for export. The Swamp Ghost is a Second World War relic and should not be exported until a decision is made by the National Executive Council,” Simon Poraituk, director of the NMGA said.
In a letter to Customs officials in Lae this month, Mr Poraituk said the NMAG was aware that a Fred Hagen and a team of engineers from Aero Archeology were in Lae and had dismantled the plane’s wings and packed them in containers ready to be shipped off.
Mr Poraituk maintained that the legality of its purported sale to Mr Hagen of Aero Archeology and other related issues remain to be resolved by the courts. In his letter, Mr Poraituk directed Customs to have all containers packed with Swamp Ghost’s parts sealed and banned for exportation.
He said PNG was processing a temporary injunctive orders to restrain Mr Hagen, his employees and agents from dismantling the relic, pending decision and further directives from the NEC or the courts. The National was not able to establish if the restraining orders were obtained and served on Aero Archeology and its agents.
Another war plane, a Lockhead P-38 Lighting, was also moved out from Oro province by Historic Aircraft Restoration Society from Sydney, Australia early last year to Lae. The old plane would have gone out of PNG but PNG Customs quickly impounded the container. It is still sitting in Lae. The Sydney-based society had removed another plane – a Kawasaki Tony aircraft – from Manus earlier.