On 18 March 2020, in response to the global coronavirus pandemic declared by the WHO on 11 March 2020¹, and in consideration of advisories from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and other key advisors, YWAM Medical Ships – Australia & Papua New Guinea (YWAM MS) made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend the MV YWAM PNG’s 2020 outreach schedule. This decision was weighed against many factors, and ultimately these risks were evaluated as significant enough to warrant this decision.
In light of this temporary suspension, YWAM MS determined it best to return the MV YWAM PNG to Australia to commence scheduled maintenance tasks and effectively prepare for its return to PNG.
YWAM MS continues to regularly monitor and assess the Papua New Guinean and Australian governments’ advice in response to the coronavirus pandemic. While there still remains much uncertainty, YWAM MS is progressing toward re-deploying the MV YWAM PNG to Papua New Guinea in early 2021.
To re-deploy, a number of critical requirements will need to be met, including travel exemptions, insurance, and an official invitation and clear expectations from Papua New Guinea’s government, outlining how YWAM MS can best serve PNG at this time.
YWAM MS is actively pursuing the above with relevant authorities. A detailed activity plan will be put into motion once details are confirmed.
In the meantime, YWAM MS continues to develop additional key areas, including various training programs, establishment of a Port Moresby Training Campus, as well as a Medical and Dental Trailer, and progressing the development of a multipliable model. There is a great demand for more medical and training ships in isolated communities around the coastal provinces of PNG. Through ongoing operational evaluations of YWAM MS’ outreach activities, YWAM MS is continuing to actively pursue opportunities to expand its medical and training ship engagement with the potential of utilising dedicated smaller vessels. YWAM MS assesses that this would increase the coverage and effectiveness in the provinces. Such smaller vessels would also provide greater training and skills development opportunities for young Papua New Guineans. YWAM MS is in current discussions to expand the fleet, and the focus on one province in 2021 will allow for a new outreach model to emerge, making outreaches on smaller vessels more practical and replicable.
Redeployment of MV YWAM PNG
Preparations to return the ship to PNG have been ongoing, as the vessel requires a 20 year special survey and drydocking prior to deployment. This is scheduled to be carried out in January – February 2021.
Upon drydock completion, YWAM MS aims to have the ship to return to PNG waters in February 2021, allowing for further preparation in Port Moresby to begin rural healthcare support in quarters three and four. The focus of these outreach patrols will be starting in the Western Province, then expanding reach as safety permits.
Port Moresby Training Campus
After ten years of operations in PNG, YWAM MS is in current negotiations for a training campus in Port Moresby for the facilitation of vocational training. There is a recognised need for vocational education in PNG, particularly in Port Moresby where, in 2011, 90% of young people aged 15-24 were unemployed.² YWAM MS is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) in Australia, and is actively progressing to attain RTO registration within PNG with the goal to offer vocational training in a range of sectors, such as health, marine, hospitality, and management. YWAM MS supports and aligns with PNG’s desire for a “well educated, healthy, appropriately skilled, and honest workforce,”³ and sees this as an important part of increasing the skill sets and capacity of its personnel – of both Papua New Guinean staff, and of Papua New Guineans more broadly.
Furthermore, this facility will also function as a fixed-base and forward operating location to facilitate stronger engagement in PNG.
YWAM MS is awaiting approval for a State Lease application from the Department of Lands. After this lease is obtained, repairs to the property will be completed, and further development will occur to establish accommodation, education and healthcare facilities.
Medical and Dental Trailer
YWAM MS acquired a near-new Medical and Dental Trailer, equipped with three dental chairs, at the end of 2019 and is actively working with the National Capital District Commission to develop a plan to bring the trailer into Port Moresby (2021) and provide dental services, training opportunities, and education in the district.
¹Ghebreyesus, Dr Tedros; ‘WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19’; World Health Organisation, 11 March 2020; Accessed 14 May 2020 https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-sopening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—11-march-2020
²World Bank (2019); Papua New Guinea Urban Youth Employment Project: 2018 Impact Evaluation and Results (English). Washington, D.C.; World Bank Group, pg 10
³Government of Papua New Guinea (2010); Papua New Guinea Vision 2050; Port Moresby: National Strategic Plan Taskforce, pg 12