Police to investigate whether yacht deliberately turns off AIS to avoid being tracked

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Police will be investigating to substantiate whether the yacht that the three sailors used to secretly enter the country deliberately turned off its Automatic Identification System (AIS) to avoid being tracked or not.Two United Kingdom nationals and one American arrived in Honiara from New Caledonia last week— undetected causing COVID-19 panic when they visited the Yacht Club last Friday and mixed with locals there— forcing the club to be locked down for several hours overnight. There was fear in the club after it was discovered that the trio had arrived from New Caledonia which still wrestles with COVID-19 cases. Health workers and police sealed the club and prohibited all nightclub goers from exiting. All were ordered to wait until the test result of the three was confirmed negative from the hospital lab before they were released.Leader of Opposition Matthew Wale this week joined the public to demand for answers why the sailors had arrived unnoticed.Speaking to journalists today, Commissioner of Police (ag) Mostyn Mangau said one of the reasons why the boat was undetected was because its AIS was turned off.He said the manning of the waterfront is the responsibility of Police Maritime and SIMSA but they were unable to catch the boat because its AIS was turned off.A spokesman from SIMSA told SBMOnline tonight that the last time the yacht was tracked and recorded was on 12 June when it left New Caledonia.“Since then its whereabouts was unknown,” he said.The spokesman said had the yacht turned its AIS on they would know exactly where it had travelled and its route into the country.The spokesman said it is a requirement under international maritime that any ship/yacht travelling in international waters must have its AIS operational.Mangau said the process now is that the healthy authorities are dealing with the three. He adds once their quarantine is completed then they (Police) will deal with them and press appropriate charges.By entering the country, the yacht has also breached the ban on yachts or pleasure boats from entering the country in the State of Public Emergency period.

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