STAFF CORRESPONDENT | AFP-JIJI
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.