Papua New Guinea’s First Qaulified Ship Captain (1929)

  • Steamships Trading Company celebrated 100 years in doing business in Papua New Guinea at the Harbourside on Wednesday 12 September 2018.

    In celebrating the centenary, the trading company highlighted their most notable milestones.

    One milestone that caught the attention of everyone at the celebrations was Pipi Gari – the first qualified ship captain.

    The story goes that Steamships’ shipping business and the opening of a company store in Samarai required more ships, so in 1928 a contract was let for the construction of a new vessel.  It was named H&S apparently after a brand of Scotch whiskey imported and sold by Steamships at the time in Papua.  This was a canny piece of marketing by Captain Fitch – he now had a travelling piece of free advertising!

    H&S was launched in 1929 and put under command of Captain Pipi Gari from Elevala, part of the big peri-urban village of Hanuabada.

    Captain Fitch with Pipi Gari on his last visit to PNG in 1971

    It was considered a great honour for Papua New Guineans to complete marine apprenticeship, be employed by Steamships and promoted to be captain of one of their famous coastal vessels.

    In honour of the first Papua New Guinea captain, in 1960 Steamships named one of its new vessels Pipi Gari, which mainly ran between Samarai and Port Moresby.  It was also used on a survey of the Fly River supporting Kennecott exploration activities and continued until the 1980’s.

    The good captain is also remembered in the Port Moresby suburb of Korobosea where many of the streets are named after Steamships vessels.

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