Ian Lloyd Neubauer
Oct 22, 2018

Port Moresby braces for major summit

Papua New Guinea will host the impending Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Summit, but is safety a concern?

The interior view of the International Convention Center, one of the venues for the upcoming Apec summit, in Port Moresby. Photo: AFP
The interior view of the International Convention Center, one of the venues for the upcoming Apec summit, in Port Moresby. Photo: AFP

When heads of 21 of the world's powerful economies land in host cities for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Leaders Summit to discuss trade, they're normally welcomed by a military salute.

But when Xi Jinping, Shinzo Abe and other leaders touch down at Papua New Guinea's (PNG) capital Port Moresby in mid-November for Apec 2018, they'll be welcomed by a 'sing-sing'—a massive song and dance extravaganza featuring hundreds of performers in feather head-dresses, bone piercings, jangling shells, and body paint.

With such high-profile delegates, security at Apec is paramount and highly complex, involving input from all 21 participating economies. But for Port Moresby, rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the world's sixth-least liveable city, hosting Apec is even more challenging.

For starters, the city only has 2,500 hotel beds in the city. To fill the gap, three P&0 cruise liners with 6,000 beds will be moored alongside within the Apec security zones—a novel and efficient solution but one that introduces a whole new gamut of marine security and safety concerns.

“All the best logistical arrangements in the world are worth nothing if we do not get Apec safety and security right,” said Apec Minister Justin Tkatchenko at PNG's parliament sitting last month.

Land, sea & air

PNG's largest aid donors—Australia, the US and New Zealand—want APEC 2018 to succeed and are coming to the party with 1,800 military personnel to ensure delegate safety.

Australia will also deploy its largest warship, the HMAS Adelaide, along with Super Hornet fighter jets to Port Moresby. Australian police have helped the PNG Defence Force rehearse counter-terrorism scenario and provided a fleet of Apec police cars and four new jet-skis.

The US Coast Guard will provide 'in-shore' security on PNG waters via a fleet of transportable security boats and sent the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy to Port Moresby.

Canada, Japan and Indonesia are sending security advisors while China has donated new firetrucks and installed 200 CCTV cameras on Apec road routes, all of which will be on total lockdown during the three-day summit.

And restricted zones have been set up around the CBD, the new US$25 million Port Moresby International Convention Centre and at Ela Beach, where P&O's ships will be moored. Residents living within restricted areas have had to register with police in accordance with special powers granted to them under the Apec Safety and Security Act 2017.

“These operations on land, air and sea, will counter any potential threat, and strive to prevent any potential threat, be this of violence or other disruption,” Tkatchenko said.

No reason to worry

Despite Port Moresby's unsavoury reputation, industry sources interviewed by CEI insist delegates won't have a problem during Apec.

“There's a perception that there is no law and order here but that's not the case. There will be a couple of days during the summit when all world leaders will be here and the city will not be affected they fall on public holidays and the weekend, so for us, it's business as usual,” said Andrew Johnston of Pacific World Multimedia.

“We're holding one of our biggest events of the year, the Kiwi Ball fundraiser with 600 guests at the new Hilton Port Moresby, just a fortnight before Apec. Will I be putting on extra security? Not at all.”

Ian Dabasori Hetri, founder of digital marketing firm LinkPad, a digital marketing company hosting 250 delegates at PNG's first LinkedIn Event at the Grand Papua Hotel in early November, voiced similar sentiments. 

“Just like any other city around the world, Port Moresby has certain spots you go certain spots you don’t go,” says Hetri. “People attending Apec have nothing to fear. They will be well looked after in our Melanesian way.”

Sushil Gordon, GM of the Airways Hotel, a five-star property with a long and storied history of accommodating world leaders in Port Moresby, says he was advised by consultants that the hotel already has “enough security”.

He adds: “As far as my personal experience, I go for a run several times a week near Ela beach with no concerns or issues. There is enough police around Port Moresby.”


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