Air Vanuatu is demanding answers on how airport security allowed a man to board a flight to Auckland with an artillery shell in his luggage.
In a major security breach, the man took the unexploded World War II artillery shell through Vanuatu's Bauerfield International Airport undetected.
The shell was only discovered when he arrived in Auckland and declared the item to New Zealand customs staff.
An Air Vanuatu spokeswoman said the airline has requested a report from Airports Vanuatu Limited Security, who are responsible for screening all departing passengers.
The airline staff ask security questions at check in, including whether a passenger is carrying anything dangerous or flammable, she said.
"We take safety on board very seriously."
Auckland Airport was partly locked down for an hour on Saturday while army bomb disposal officers destroyed the shell.
The man is understood to have found the shell while diving in Vanuatu, and decided to bring it with him on the Air Vanuatu Boeing 737-800 flight, with 162 passengers on board.
Mike Garland, who was travelling from Singapore, had just arrived in Auckland when police escorted him away from Customs.
He said a colleague overheard a man had walked up to Customs and calmly declared what he called "a grenade".
"They asked him if he had anything to declare, and he said a grenade. Suddenly there was a major emergency."
He said taking a military shell on a plane is madness.
"If it had gone off, well you only have to blow a little hole in a plane for there to be potentially serious damage."
A security official at Vanuatu's Bauerfield International Airport, in the capital Port Vila, did not want to be named but insisted the airport had thorough security processes.
"You have to go through a walk-through detector, to detect metal in luggage and clothing," he said.
"When a passenger goes through departure, all their luggage is X-rayed to check for explosives or metals."
Bauerfield operations general manager Kevin Dick Abel said if a suspicious item had been picked up he would have been notified.
"We will go through all the machines and revisit all the decisions to find out what happened."
The staff member who let the shell through could be suspended under airport security rules, he said.
"All the screenings are taped, so we will be able to see what they did or didn't do."
Police described the man's actions as an "interesting case of stupidity", but said they would not charge him.
"Taking an artillery shell on an international flight is unbelievable," Inspector Earle McIntosh said.
A Customs spokeswoman said the man kept the shell as a souvenir. "He came off his flight and declared it. Customs protocol is to notify the police, and they took control of the operation."
Thousands of tonnes of US military equipment was dumped into Vanuatu's coast, including munitions, guns, bulldozers and trucks, when World War II ended.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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